Corona Chronicles Poetry: September 10, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.


May you go Gentle
Barbara Klie

Over ten years ago I took a Senior College poetry course with Ellie O’Leary, meant for students who wanted to learn to better appreciate poetry. It was one of the courses I’ve taken at Senior College to stretch myself. As with several of the stretch-myself courses I’ve taken, it was one of my favorites. One suggested assignment Ellie gave was that we write a form of poem called a villanelle. My computer defines a villanelle as “a nineteen-line poem with two rhymes throughout, consisting of five tercets and a quatrain, with the first and third lines of the opening tercet recurring alternately at the end of the other tercets and with both repeated at the close of the concluding quatrain.” I’m sure Ellie explained it in a way that I understood better than I understand this definition! She had told us the Dylan Thomas’ poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night was an example of a villanelle. His poem has always disturbed me, so I cheated a bit and did not write an original villanelle, but altered his to suit my wish for how we all go into that good night. Here is my version.

May you go gentle into that good night,
Old age should bow and bend at end of day;
Rage not against the dying of the light.

Wise women at their end, know rest is right
They’ve had their chance to voice their final say
May they go gentle into that good night.

Mensch, at last farewell, recall how bright
Their simple helpful deeds had shone. May they
Rage not against the dying of the light.

Dear friend, the time to part is now in sight
Your seasons have turned, you can no longer stay
May you go gentle into that good night
Rage not against the dying of the light.

Barbara is a former member of the Senior College Board. Currently, she is a very active member of the Curriculum Committee where she serves as secretary. She has also chaired the Brown Bag Lunch program for several years.


Watson Gets His Needs Met
Jim Owen

I thought folks might like this poem. There are many dog owners in this town who love their dogs and some walk them by my house. I don’t often write about pets, but this dog is special, particularly in a time of a pandemic, social distancing, and a physical affection drought.

Watson is an English Springer Spaniel,
he lives next door,
a mid-sized dog, way too big for a lap,
long droopy ears, big expressive eyes,
a large nose and mouth to match,
short cropped hair in white, brown and tan,
on a walk, free of his leash
he ranges about with speed and surprising grace
nose scanning his surroundings like radar.

Watson is an extrovert
loves being around people,
a constant presence,
always alert to his family and their company.
whether he is lying, sitting or moving about.
Watson is a living argument
in favor of dogs,
he is funny,
he sings along whenever his owner
practices her violin.

He is responsive,
when told not to eat appetizers,
his legs overcome his desire.
He is protective,
alway ready to guard the front door,
even when firecrackers go off
several blocks away.
Like a cowboy sidekick,
in a TV western,
his soulful glances provide comic relief
whenever distraction is needed.

Unlike the cats I have lived with,
Watson longs for
pats, scratches, gentle stroking,
and comes back for more,
again and again,
anybody will do.
His big eyes, droopy eyelids
lead the way,
a deafening silent request for love,
and he thrives,
we should all be touched
as often as Watson is.

Jim Owen is inspired by the poetry of Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco, E.B. White, Japanese Haiku and many others. A member of The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry in Belfast, Jim’s poems have been published in the Foreign Service Journal, several online journals, the Maine Island Trail Association’s Tales of the Trail blog, and a booklet published by The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry. One of his pandemic poems is on the front door of the Belfast Free Library. A member of the Board of Directors of Senior College Belfast, Jim was regional manager and counselor for an Employee Assistance Program based in Maine.


Poem
Tycelia Santoro

Lounging on the patio
I await the concert.
It begins: high pitched calls
followed by a tumble of trills,
pierce the air
again and again.

Sometimes the soloist
at the top of the highest tree
is joined for a duet.

Summer with the cardinals.

Autumn brings quieter times.

Hope for flashes of red among
the winter trees.

Hope for encores –

I take pleasure from the natural beauty of my surroundings, the scenic pleasures of our state, and the joy of my animal companion, a 12 pound terrier named Beanie (so named by his Louisiana rescue shelter for his pinto bean shaped markings). I find myself more attuned to changes in the weather and the world around me. I have watched spiders spin, chipmunks scurry, birds fly, and my dog sleep. I have listened to sounds of the night and the silent beginning of the day. I have marveled at both the rising and setting of the sun. The moon has brought serenity and peace most nights and I fall asleep with anticipation of the day to come.

Is this what we call making lemonade from lemons?

Corona Chronicles: Animal Stories

Jack and Charlie
Barb Rehmeyer

Jackson arrived first in 2006. He liked to “sing” under the window, especially in the evening, in hopes to come inside. Because he liked to sing, I named him after one of my favorite singers – Jackson Brown. He was an orange tabby cat and had two triangles above his eyes much like a jack-o-lantern. Hence the name seemed to fit. We thought he was about a year old. I hung up a “Lost Cat” sign at the local shop, but I never heard from anyone.

Jackson was very affectionate. He was always eager to be petted and belly-rubbed and enjoyed sitting on any available lap. Sometimes this was a nuisance because he liked being as close as possible, crawling in-between my knitting or sitting on the book I was reading. Jack loved attention and loved being part of our family.

Charlie arrived in 2010. He was a real goofball! One of his favorite places to sleep was the bathroom sink, which can be quite shocking in the middle of the night. I often felt Charlie was part dog because he behaved more like a dog than a cat. He followed me around everywhere. I’d go to the garden and Charlie was there. I’d go to the bathroom and Charlie followed. Whenever I arrived home, Charlie showed up to greet me and follow me in the house.

Charlie grew to be a pretty massive cat, outweighing the other cats by about five pounds. But he was a lover not a fighter, friendly to everybody including the grandchildren. The other cats disappeared when the kids showed up. Not Charlie! He would let them pat him and pull his tail and never tried to scratch them. “Charlie” was one of my granddaughter’s first words. I’ll never forget the rapture on her two-year-old face the day Charlie walked between her legs while she was standing in the yard. Charlie had the most intense green eyes.

One morning in the fall of 2016, Charlie didn’t show up for breakfast, which was very unusual. We looked for him and called for him, but we never found him. Remember I said Charlie followed me everywhere? So his presence was greatly missed.

Jackson disappeared on May 31, 2018. It was a Thursday and I went to work at the library around 9:00 a.m. Jack was sleeping on the bed in the screen porch so I propped the screen door open with a rock so that he could get out if he wanted. That was the last time I saw him. My husband died in January of 2018 and Jackson was a great comfort during the months of grief afterwards. He sat in my lap and slept beside me in bed. I missed him greatly. I still miss him.

So that’s the story of my two friends. I don’t know where they came from, and I don’t know where they went. But I am grateful that they were part of my life.

Barb Rehmeyer lives in Liberty and is the director of the Liberty Library. She has three grown children and five grandchildren.

Jack and Charlie


My Elegant Beast
Kristin Frangoulis

I have a lights-out lover.
He creeps nightly to my bed.
He will lounge and will hover,
As his paws caress my head.
He will strut across my heart,
As if it was a pillow,
Purring from the very start,
Acting rather mellow.
A muffler his body makes,
And his cheek lies on my face.
We sleep until the dawn breaks,
Then a morning pose he makes.
He dreams of what next to kill,
As he stalks the window sill.

Kristin Frangoulis writes and paints in Belfast. She lives with her husband, George and several cats. She also hosts WBFY radio show, “Poetry By The Bay,” and co-hosts the TV show, “Good Morning Belfast” with her husband.


Conversations with Stinky
Brenda Smith

“How’s the weather out there this morning Stinky?” I inquire with a gravelly voice, unused since last speaking to it some eight hours ago. It stares at me. Stinky is still there, at eye level, clinging to the screen door leading out to my deck. This morning puffy white clouds with flat blue bottoms form a backdrop for my companion.

I know it’s not nice to call something stinky unless it is an over ripe block of limburger cheese. It would be nice to know if Stinky is a her or a him so I could affix a gender appropriate name to it. For now, Stinky will have to suffice as a nickname for the prehistoric looking creature it is – a brown marmorated stinkbug.

He clings on to the screen longingly desirous of the warmth and brightness inside my apartment. Out there the nights are growing longer and colder. “I’m sorry Stinky, Covid-19 update #24 of Penobscot Shores states in bold letters, ‘Outside visitors are not permitted inside the Ocean House. Only masked people who reside in the apartments are allowed inside.” No exceptions!”

Stinky is persistent though and has not abandoned its perch for over a week now. I say “goodnight and stay safe” to Stinky when I turn off the living room light at night. When I reappear in the morning I find Stinky has scooched a few inches to one side or the other and perhaps a tad up or down.

2020, this bizarre year of the pandemic, has left me feeling more isolated and lonely than ever before. Our lives have been turned upside down, unable to see or spend time with our friends or family except via a virtual world called Zoom. I so miss the smiles hidden under masks that conceal our faces from the bridge of our noses to under our chins. I find myself questioning whether I am actually going deaf or whether speech is garbled just enough that I strain to understand what is being said to me by the few other masked people I might encounter in a week.

Is it no wonder then, that a maskless six legged, two antennaed, inch and a quarter long insect who refuses to leave me alone, should become my unlikely confidant. As a conversationalist Stinky doesn’t have much to say, but I couldn’t dream of finding a better listener.

Every morning I tell Stinky about how many new cases of the virus have been reported. “Stinky, this virus is spreading and breaking records every day. Today it’s up to 243 cases. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want to go to Hannaford’s where some people “prefer” not to wear masks. Do you think I should keep my Physical Therapy appointments Stinky? Who knows how many other babies my therapist’s baby has been around in daycare and for each of those babies how many family members were they exposed to? And how many other people were each of those family members exposed to?”

Stinky doesn’t get too excited when I begin to grow hysterical. That in turn has a reciprocal calming effect on me. We are slowly building some trust in each other as we both hunker in place. By now, Stinky knows I will not hurt it. It will not have to squirt its smelly defensive liquid to repel me. By Googling its species I know Stinky will not bite, sting or cause me or my house any damage. That’s the sort of apartment mate I can tolerate.

We both have hard lives right now. While I plot ways not to become infected with Covid-19, Stinky is worried about finding shelter and food to survive just a while longer. It’s a matter of life or death for both of us. I am worried about the predicted weather change tonight. The forecast is for heavy rain and 45 mile per hour winds.

It takes strength and endurance for Stinky to stay attached to the screen for days on end, but I’m worried about how my bug buddy will cope with gusts tonight strong enough to topple some power lines. When I warned him of the impending storm Stinky was speechless! “If you need to find a more secure place to hang out than on my screen door, I‘ll understand. You’ve gotta do, what you’ve gotta do. You should find a crack and take shelter while you can.”

The weather guessers got it right this time. Overnight the rain pelted viciously and the wind wailed furiously. I prayed that Stinky would find a hideaway because its diminutive quarter ounce of weight would be defenseless against the storm’s force.

In the morning, from the hallway I could see there was no longer a tiny body attached to the screen door. I felt a tinge of grief as I realized that Stinky was gone. I imagined that a great gust of wind had swept Stinky into the air taking it aloft on a magical carpet ride to some magical destination. How could I have gotten so attached to a little bug?

I walked to the door to gaze out over the bay, admiring the view that starts my every day. I was startled by what I saw. Tucked behind the door’s side panel, still clinging to the screen was Stinky. I let out a whoop of joy. “Stinky you made it! How did you do it?” I was amazed and elated. “Well little buddy this is going to be one great day!”

I pondered the miracle of Stinky’s survival and felt humbled by what Stinky must have endured. Clearly there was a lesson in it for me. In these pandemic darkened days when life’s routine has been thrown askew, the audacity of this tiny creature to survive a raging tempest gives me inspiration and hope. I know I must cling to the promise there will be a day when I no longer fear Covid-19, just as tightly as Stinky clung to my screen door. For now, we have each other.

Brenda Smith fulfilled a life-long dream when she moved to Belfast in 2019. An accounting graduate of Bentley University, she worked as a CPA and Vice President of Finance for several non-profit organizations. She earned her MS from Suffolk University in Philanthropy and Media and has produced, directed and edited many award winning videos. She is most proud of the coveted “Telly” award on her desk. Now retired, she is busy with several writing projects: an early memoir recounting some of her hair-raising global adventures, a later memoir about living with the extremely rare Stiff Person’s syndrome, and writing short essays about things in life that make her smile. She is a board member and treasurer of Belfast Senior College.


Sweet Memories
Yvette Reid

When my son Adam was around a year old, we had a long-haired dachshund named Dickens and a wire-haired dachshund named Reveille. Every day Adam and the dogs would stand at the storm door waiting for my husband to come home from teaching school.

Adam is now a high school teacher with a son of his own, and a much larger dog.

Yvette is a retired school librarian. The photos were taken when they lived in Connecticut, but they have lived on Islesboro for thirty plus years.


Al’s Sonnet
Kristin Frangoulis

He knocks at the door and asks to come in.
He nurtures us all, especially the small,
With a face that he sports with a smile or a grin.
He wears the same coat, summer, winter or fall.
A tweed kind of thing with ebony stripes,
Mixed up with black spots he tries to erase,
A lap of his tongue cleans his face with a swipe.
He moves with a lope, a lion’s smooth grace.
And bathes every night in a claw footed tub.
He falls into bed with a grunt and a sigh,
Too tired to yowl and carouse at the pub.
He purrs us to sleep with a sweet lull-a-bye.
Some call him a cat, but we call him Pal,
Our shadow and friend, our Sweet Baby Al.


Dog Love
Nancy Perkins

My lifelong love affair with dogs began when I met my first pet, a silky, caramel colored cocker spaniel named Taffy. Taffy had been my Daddy’s dog long before I was born and as a toddler there are countless black and white photographs of me with Taffy. As an only child for nearly five years Taffy was my constant playmate and confidant. I clearly remember Daddy breaking the news to me that Taffy had become ill and had died. None of the modern day euphemisms were employed. Taffy died just like I would some day. I learned early that all living things die but as a five year old it didn’t really register.

For my 12th birthday I was given a beautiful black and white English Spaniel whom my mother insisted be called Peter. All of my adolescent angst was shared with Peter who slept by my side. I lost my best friend when he was killed by a driver who used our driveway as a quick turnaround. I was disconsolate and mourned Peter for years. His was the first death of a living being to whom I had been close that I experienced. It marked a new phase of my life. I had loved him dearly and had lost him, a pattern we all learn sooner or later.

Our family welcomed another dog and I grew up and left home for college. I missed the family dog. But soon I was married and from that point on I always had a dog. There was a collection of 4-legged friends over the years who were part of our family: Tory, Abner, Zack, Sophie, and finally a beautiful black lab born in a shelter in Beaufort, South Carolina. My son named him Beaufort but he became Beaufie to me. He was a perceptive, loving companion and was at my side following the death of my husband. He helped me during those dark days but sadly Beaufie died at age 13 and I felt totally and completely alone with children grown and on their own. I had grieved so greatly upon losing my special friend that I swore I could not bear losing another dog and vowed never to adopt again.
Several years later I remarried. My new husband owned a handsome cat named Otis. Soon after we retired and moved to Maine. It wasn’t really home to me for a long time and I often considered returning to Virginia. One day my husband suggested that we adopt a dog. I fell in love at first sight with a diminutive mixed terrier, from Louisiana, named Pinto Bean. Even Otis welcomed the new member of our family. Sadly not long after Otis died.

Beanie was a lively and enchanting pet. He went everywhere with us, ate his home cooked meals with us, and inserted his 12 pound body between the two of us every night. We envisioned many happy years and adventures with Beanie but it was not to be. He died in early October of this year, in our arms. He was somewhere between 13 and 16 years old. I still see him at times and feel his cold black nose on my face. I still cry when I think of my Bean and his faithful presence. I have to remind myself that we gave Beanie a wonderful home and a happy life in Belfast. He had dog friends, people friends, and a family who loved him. He gave us so much more than we gave him, he brought joy and happiness to us. While I may have saved him he really saved me and like all the dogs I have owned taught me important life lessons. A dog can teach an old girl new tricks. Soon it may be time to welcome another dog into my life to both learn from and love.

Nancy relocated to Belfast from Virginia five years ago after a career as a nonprofit fundraiser and agency director coupled with political activism. A member of St. Margaret’s Church, the Belfast Garden Club, and the board of Waterfall Arts, Nancy is particularly happy to be part of Senior College Belfast.


Chaos and Cats
Kristin Frangoulis

I swim in a sea of cartons.

Our belongings all packed up,
Mountaineer Organic Chickens,
Northland Apples fresh from the truck.
That’s what the labels announce.
Their contents are mysteries to find.
Six cats on top of them pounce:
Black Panther, one of a kind,
Four tabbies, a mother and kittens,
Fat gray who growls and hisses.
Whatever I need is hidden.
I step on tuna in dishes.
I lament my loss of home,
And wish I could find my comb.


The Optimist and the Pessimist
Paul Sheridan

A child psychologist had twin boys—one was an optimist; the other, a pessimist. Just to see what would happen, on Christmas Eve she loaded the pessimist’s room with toys and games. In the optimist’s room, she dumped a pile of horse droppings.

In the morning, she found the pessimist surrounded by gifts, crying.
“What’s wrong?” the mother asked. “I have a ton of game manuals to read … I need batteries … and my toys will all eventually get broken!” sobbed the pessimist.

Passing the optimist’s room, the mother found him dancing for joy around the pile of droppings. “Why are you so happy?” she asked.
The optimist shouted, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

Paul Sheridan has taught courses for Senior College on films, photography, and safe driving. He and his wife! Karen Gleason, are film buffs and live in Northport.

Corona Chronicles: Story Edition

Corona Chronicles Story Edition

Stories from “The Story of Story” class

A six-week Winterim class drew to its conclusion on February 12th. Brenda Smith had seven eager participants who joined her on a journey of writing exploration. Together they learned how the brain processes sensory and emotional content through a complex neural network. Through the use of neural triggers in their writing they learned how to write stories that will remain memorable to their readers either by recreating a shared experience or by simulating new experiences described by the writer.

Each participant wrote and delivered a short story in the final class. As a group we laughed, cried and learned from each other’s stories. We zipped ourselves into the skins of both real and invented characters and stared into their souls, shared their hopes and worries and each of us emerged a changed person. Several of the class participants have agreed to share their stories with the Corona Chronicle readers and we hope you enjoy them as much as we did. Look for this class to be repeated in the future.


The Letter
Nancy Perkins

Ida boarded the train in Richmond with the letter in her pocket. With her small suitcase, and a few dollars in her purse, she was determined to discover a secret that she had never known about until she had read the letter.

She had found the letter in her mother’s dresser among a stack of letters tied with a faded ribbon as she packed up her parent’s belongings following their sudden deaths in a car crash. The letter, addressed to her mother, was postmarked Big Island, Virginia, December, 1918. As she opened the letter and began reading a chill came over her, she felt weak, light headed and as if the world was crashing around her. The letter was written by a woman thanking her mother for adopting her infant girl to raise as her own. Ida had never known that her mother and father were in fact not her real parents. The letter was signed by a woman named Mary Jane and dated not long after Ida’s birthdate. She carefully folded the pale blue paper and returned it to the envelope.
As the conductor called “Lynchburg” Ida knew it was not much longer until they reached her destination. It was beginning to get dark as the train pulled out of the station. The tracks followed the river towards the mountains on the horizon. Out the window Ida could see the dark river and in the distance she spotted what appeared to be a huge riverboat. As the train moved closer she realized she was looking at the paper mill in the distance. Ida knew a bit about the small community of Big Island in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. She had spent a day in the library reading about this small dot on the map of western Virginia. She learned that less than 200 people lived there and that many of them worked for the Pulp and Paper Company.

When the conductor announced “Big Island” Ida jumped up, put on her coat, and grabbed her suitcase from the overhead. As the conductor helped her down she thanked him turning to the lights of the small depot. Across the road she saw a large white frame structure, Cox’s Hotel.

As she crossed the road and walked up the Hotel steps she entered the small lobby. A small, elderly woman behind the desk welcomed her.

“My name is Ida Tunstall from Richmond and I wrote about a room.”

“Good evening, Ida, my you are a lot younger than I thought. I am Miss Jimmy Cox and this is my hotel. You are just in time for dinner. Here is your room key.

Ida found the small room warm and cozy. She checked her face in the mirror, quickly ran a comb through her auburn hair and washed the grime of the train off her hands at the small corner basin.

There were but three other people in the dining room, one couple and a single older man. A waitress greeted her, showed her to a table, took her order, and advised that her meal would be right out. Ida had never eaten alone in a restaurant. Her parents could barely afford to keep food on the table in 1937. Ida luckily had gotten a job at a department store shortly after graduating from high school but within two years she had been laid off.

Next morning over breakfast she asked the waitress if she knew of a Mary Jane living in Big Island. The waitress replied “Honey, I have only been here two years and I don’t know any Mary Jane. You need to ask Miss Jimmy. She knows everyone who ever lived here, lives here now, and probably anyone planning on moving here!”

Ida finished her breakfast and returned to the front desk.

“Miss Jimmy, I am looking for a woman named Mary Jane whom I believe was from Big Island.”

“Oh my goodness, Miss Tunstall, there have been several Mary Janes in Big Island. How old is the one you are looking for and why do you want to find her?”

“She was a friend of my mother’s years ago before the war. She would be about 45 or so today. My mother and father were killed this year and I just wanted to look her up.”

“You poor child, replied Miss Jimmy. “I am sure you will find your Mary Jane. Mary Jane Sadler married an engineer and they moved to Greensboro, NC 25 years ago. Mary Jane Goff still lives at home with her family but she is younger than you. Then there was Mary Jane Oliver whose father owned the mill, not the paper mill, the old grist mill down the road a quarter of a mile or so. The big white house on the hill across from there was the Oliver place. Mr. Oliver and his wife were lovely people but they both have passed on. They are buried up on Sunset Hill along with most everyone who ever lived in this place. You don’t want to miss going up there. It is close by and is the most magnificent view in all of this county. I have a plot right next to Mr. Cox and I will be happy to rest there for eternity. Now let’s see, Mr. Oliver’s daughter, Mary Jane was a beautiful girl. I know she moved to Richmond right after the war but came back when her parents passed away. You ought to talk to Will Buchanon who owns a little store right past the grist mill across the highway. He’ll be in the shop all day. He knew Mary Jane right well. Before he went off to France they were courting but nothing ever came of it. That’s what you should do, go up and see Mr. Buck, that’s what we call him round here. Just tell him I sent you.”

The October morning was cool in the mountains and walking out of the hotel Ida was glad she had worn her coat and hat. The early morning mist was beginning to burn off. The leaves had changed and the vista of the river and mountains looked as if posed for a postcard photo. Ida looked up the hill to the house at the top thinking that may be where her real mother grew up.

The road to the store was winding with no sidewalks. Leaves had fallen and formed a colorful path. Ahead she could see the historic grist mill that had been operated by the Oliver family for nearly 50 years. The mill race ran across the rocky field where Ida saw several brown cows. She passed a few houses and then ahead she saw the small shop located next to a stream that had gurgled by the side of the road as she walked from the hotel.

As she entered the small shop she was greeted by “May I help you?” A tall, middle-aged man, dressed neatly in a grey sweater with bow tie and suspenders adjusted his wire spectacles.

Ida was suddenly overcome with shyness and managed to say, “Yes, I would like one of those Hershey bars, the small ones.” As he handed her the candy she gave him her nickel. “Thank you,” she murmured, then turned and left the store.

Walking along the road that led to the cemetery Ida turned into the cemetery gates and realized she had been walking uphill since leaving the shop. Suddenly she felt worn out. Looking for a place to sit she saw a bench and headed right for it. Sitting down she looked toward the river down below her and across to a vista of mountains spreading toward the horizon. After a while Ida rose and walked around the small cemetery. She found the Oliver plot and the graves of Johnny and his parents. Nearby was a section of Buchanons as well as a number of Cox graves. Surprisingly, Ida couldn’t help feeling that she belonged with these people, these were her kinfolk, this was her home. But she quickly realized this was wishful thinking for she wanted so terribly to know she belonged somewhere.

Her walk back to the hotel took only a short while. Since leaving earlier she had circled the small village from the hotel to the shop, to the cemetery then back past the huge paper mill and on to the hotel. Ida returned to her room and lay down. She fell into a deep sleep and awakened to a dark room. The evening meal was quiet and uneventful.

The next morning Miss Jimmy called to her after breakfast.

“Well, Miss Tunstal, did you have any luck with Mr. Buck?”

“No, But I am going back today to talk to him.”

Ida, more determined than ever to learn if Mary Jane Oliver was the mother she was seeking, set off with shoulders squared to talk to Mr. Buck.

Arriving at the store, Mr. Buck greeted her with “Did you eat all of that chocolate bar, Miss?”

“I sure did and I want another one. But I also want to ask you about a woman I am looking for.” Suddenly Ida felt less reticent and the words came pouring out.

“I am visiting Big Island for a few days, staying down at Cox’s. Miss Jimmy mentioned that you might be able to help me. I am looking for a woman, who lived in Big Island during the war, named Mary Jane. She and my mama were close friends in Richmond. Both my parents were killed in an awful car wreck on the Washington Highway several months ago. I don’t recall having met Mary Jane but I want to meet her now that Mama and Daddy are gone. But I don’t know her full name. I think it is Mary Jane Oliver who grew up here in Big Island. But I am not sure.”

Mr. Buck looked at Ida and said “Why are you trying to find her?”

Ida, stared directly into his deep blue eyes and decided now was the time to be honest, “Because I think she may be my real mother! I was adopted, but when my adopted parents were killed I found out that I wasn’t their real child, I mean their flesh and blood child. Then I found a letter from Mary Jane written to my adopted mother from Big Island thanking her for taking me into her home and raising me as her own.”

Mr. Buck, surprised at Ida’s revelation, felt confused and managed to say “Oh, no, Miss, Mary Jane Oliver never had a child. She couldn’t be your mother. I have known Mary Jane since she was a little girl. Her older brother Johnny and I were the very best of friends until he was killed in the war. Mary Jane was two years younger than we were. Johnny and I did everything together usually with Mary Jane and my little sister tagging along. Soon after I finished school and was working in the Bank, Mary Jane and I found we were more than just friends. I realized I had loved her since we were children. We courted for nearly a year, talked of getting married, building a house but then the country entered the war overseas. Johnny and I were 21 and we were among the first registered to go in the army. In May 1918 we arrived in France. Leaving home was hard but it was so much harder wondering if I would see Mary Jane again.

Johnny was the first of our boys to die. We were together and fought together at Belleau Woods and then he was gone. I fought on but ended up being gassed at the Marne but by then it was nearly over. I was sent to a hospital in Nice where I spent a month recuperating in the Mediterranean sun. I couldn’t walk a block without having to sit down. My lungs were permanently damaged but the thought of seeing Mary Jane again kept me going,

The return home was bittersweet. Mama, Daddy, and Mary Jane met me at the station right here in Big Island on a warm day in March. I wanted to tell them then what I couldn’t tell them in my letters, that I was not whole and never would be. But they all were so happy to see me. I started working back at the bank and Mary Jane and I picked up where we left off. But I knew this was not going to work out and our dream would not come true. Every day the short walk to the bank became harder and harder. I accepted the fact that I couldn’t physically keep on. I felt that the only decent thing to do would be tell Mary Jane we couldn’t marry. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. We were sitting on the front porch at her house up on the hill when I told her we couldn’t be married. Mary Jane looked at me and said “Buck that doesn’t matter we will be fine right here in Big Island.” But my pride wouldn’t let me accept being less than a whole man. I left her there on the porch and walked home knowing that my life would never be the same.

Afterwards I heard Mary Jane had left Big Island and moved to Richmond. I never heard from her but her mama told me she had become a piano teacher and was doing well. I used to hear about her often from my sister who lived in Richmond but the only time I ever saw her was when she came back to Big Island for her mother’s and father’s funerals. I have always loved her and always will but I would have been a pretty poor excuse of a husband for a beautiful girl like Mary Jane.”

“Did she ever marry, Mr. Buchanan?” Ida asked.

“No, I don’t think she did,” his voice wavered and he felt confused and uncertain but said “Sometimes I think about what our lives would have been like if only we had married and had a family. I can’t believe what you are telling me for I know someone in Big Island would have told me if she had a baby. I have never heard this before. This is a small place and word would have gotten out. Don’t you see, Miss? This just isn’t right. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Buck knew that the minute this girl left the shop he would have to call his sister in Richmond to try and find out the truth about this story. If anybody knew it would be his sister Nellie. She would know the truth,

Ida thanked him and as she turned to leave Mr. Buchanan said “You never told me your name.”

“It’s Ida. Ida Tunstall.“

After scribbling it on a scrap of paper he thanked her and said “Ida, I have something for you.” He handed her a small brown bag. “A little something for your trip back home.”

Ida left the little shop confused and disappointed because she had hoped Mr. Buchanan would have at least given her Mary Jane’s address. But to think she lived in Richmond! Maybe I can find her when I get home. Ida refused to believe that this woman wasn’t her real mother. But who was her father? Listening to Mr. Buchanan’s story Ida wasn’t totally convinced he knew the truth or was telling the truth. Somehow or other she thought he just didn’t know what the real story was. Could Mary Jane have been pregnant when he and her brother shipped out for France? The only person who could answer that question was back in Richmond.

She opened the little bag Mr. Buchanon had handed her. It was filled with an assortment of penny candies. Smiling, she picked an orange slice and thought what a nice man he was as she bit down on the sugary sweet. Stopping at the depot on the way back to the hotel the station master told her she could get a train back to Richmond in about an hour arriving in the capital city at 7 pm.

Ida rushed back to the hotel, packed her bag, and stopped at the desk to thank Miss Jimmy and say goodbye.

“Good bye, dear,” Miss Jimmy called as she left, “sure hope you find what you are looking for.”

Ida’s mind raced the entire ride back. She just couldn’t get herself to admit she was wrong. She had to find Mary Jane. She just had to hear the truth from the woman herself, the woman who had written the letter. I will find her, she vowed.

Back in her tiny apartment Ida dropped her bag and was asleep in her bed in no time. The next morning she ate a quick breakfast, dressed, and caught the streetcar to the library. In the library she sat down with a city directory and turned to Oliver. There were 17 listed but no M.J. Oliver. With no solid leads she turned to the Yellow Pages and under Piano Lessons she found a listing for M.J. Oliver Private Piano & Music Lessons with an address and phone number. She quickly tried calling but there was no answer. She knew exactly where the house was located right close to the famous concert hall where her parents had taken her years ago. It was just a short streetcar ride from the Library.

Ida got off the streetcar and quickly walked two blocks to the address. On the black wrought iron gate was a small sign M. J. Oliver, Piano Lessons. She was trembling as she walked up the porch stairs of the white frame row house. Taking a deep breath she rang the bell and stepped back. The door opened and there stood a tall woman whose light auburn hair was peppered with gray. To Ida the woman’s deep blue eyes peering at her and her strong well-defined jawline were the image she saw of herself when she looked into her own mirror. Standing behind her in the hallway was a smiling, familiar face with wire-rimmed spectacles. Before Ida could speak the woman gazed at her with a slight smile and said “Come right in, we have been waiting for you!”

Not Lost
Anonymous

Bill was starting to worry. Well, not worry-worry. Just a little concerned.

We’ve been here….we were here. This clearing. That dead tree, that hill.
Or not?
Maybe not.
He stood still a moment. But not too long. He didn’t want to convey uncertainty to the kids — and definitely not lost.
Which he wasn’t.

Ollie looked over his shoulder at him, “This way?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Bill said and was tempted to trust his 8-year-old son the way you follow pickups that look like they know where they’re going down country roads.

“But just a sec. Let’s chill a minute.” He rested his boot on a rock, turning. Moriah, bringing up the rear, had her head in the bag of grapes. He didn’t know how she didn’t trip on a root and fall flat on her face.

“Let’s go, Mo!” She was going to finish those grapes. Which he knew when he gave them to her — but she was starting to whine, what could he do.

He heard an ancient echo, his own arrogant voice when Barb had told him to pack more food. “They’ll be fine fine fine fine….” He’d said it every time.

And they will be. It’s alright. He’ll carry someone if he has to.

Ollie was still going strong. He watched his son whack his stick against the rock, break it, and start looking for a new one.

“I thought you said we were going to look at a tempest?” Moriah whined.

Tempest? A wave swept over Bill for a split second, confusion, reeling. Let us not burden … He waited until it passed. …and she was saying “Dad, navigation!”

“The compass!” Bill said. Right. He took his phone out of his pocket, hit the app and handed it over, trading it for what was left of the grapes.

They’ll get Burger King. If they ever get out of here. He wouldn’t be cracking open his O’Douls until ten at this rate.

A screen on the scene drew Ollie. The kids started to argue. And then he snatched the phone. Fighting. Always fighting.

“Dad!”

Did he hear his little girl just call her brother a dick? Definitely got that from Barb. And The Tempest? What was that?

“Check it out,” he said, squatting. Among roots, rock, a carpet of moss and pine needles, a hole, what, a chipmunk hole or something. The kids draw in. He reads Ollie’s mind and stops him from jamming his stick into the hole.

“Maybe it’s Shrew Bettina’s.” He looks at Moriah, her mother’s eyes, nose, those cheekbones.

“Dad!” she says. It’s one of their favorite books. His favorite book. A shrew in her snug underground home. She has a party, with cake, and dancing….

He’d tell Barb that she was right about the food. He’d give her that. But he wasn’t wrong.

The west sun slants down through the tall pines and he recognizes them now. Yes, these are them. They’ve been here.

“Ollie, give it back to your sister.” Onward! Let’s go!


This Cat
Lee Graham

Slowly, she bent to pull the offending weed. Careful not to lose her balance, Roz stood then sank back onto one of the many benches her son had thoughtfully placed among her flower gardens. Resting briefly to regain her breath, she weakly tossed the weed aside. Frustration and anger at her offending body alternated with the peace of being among the once meticulously tended flowers. Roz, lulled by the sweetness of the Madonna lilies and the warmth of the late August sun, let her eyes close — just for a moment, she told herself. The orange tabby, sensing the stillness, jumped gently into the welcoming lap.

​The cat just arrived one day a couple of years back, bony thin, its fur matted. He strode right up to her and seemed to listen intently when she questioned who he might be and to whom he belonged. He followed her straight into the kitchen and demanded food. Roz called the neighbors, asked around, but no one knew of a missing orange cat. She gave over the guest bedroom to give him space and a chance to acclimate to her and to the old cat she lived with. He took to the bed, the litter box, the frequent offerings of food, and the kind words. He demanded more territory, soon leaping onto the kitchen counters and Roz’s desk.

​Roz made an appointment at her vet. She’d had dozens of animals. Horses when she had still owned the farm next door. Even now on her good days she walked up to the pasture with carrots or an apple for the new owners’ horses. And dogs – she’d had a series of Gordon setters, but the last one was a bit too much and when he was gone, she resisted the regular calls from the breeder. She really did not want another pet that might outlive her. But this cat, for some unknown reason, seemed to have given her little choice.

​Cleaned and patched, minus the burdock and fur mats, he was quite beautiful. She’d taken to calling him “Lucky,” but the vet said she’d never treated a lucky “Lucky” so, Roz now addressed him as “Charlie-cat.” She made a sign for her door: DON’T LET THE CAT OUT, because her many friends were used to walking in with only a shout of hello. She tried to sort out her feelings. Should she let him out and be happy if he left for some unknown home? Should she take him to a shelter so a young person could adopt him? In the end, Charlie made his own decision.

​He followed her around all day and seemed to pout if she shooed him when she went outside. He trailed her to the bathroom and sat by the shower, waiting. He lay sprawled on her desk, back to her computer, as she wrote emails. He was clearly, her cat. Roz bought him toys, a cat bed (which he seldom used), special treats, nutritious food. The vet was astonished when, weeks later, he weighed in at twenty pounds. “He needs exercise,” she said, “and fewer treats. He may think he is still starving, but clearly, he is not.”

​Apprehensively, Roz left the door ajar and quietly slipped out into her early spring garden. Charlie knew immediately that she’d gone outside and with no hesitation, even after months of captivity, marched out to join her. They developed a new routine. She’d weed for a while, empty the weed bucket, survey the progress of the Daphne buds, or fill the bird feeders. Charlie’d lie down right in the garden and she’d often have to physically move him to get at a weed. He’d lumbered along at her heels, more doglike than cat, never letting Roz out of his sight. Increasingly, she trusted that he would stay. He even let one or two of her friends pet him.

​Not Anne though. She stopped by often with Ollie, her golden retriever puppy. For years, Roz and Anne’s respective dogs had romped and played while their caretakers chatted. Charlie-cat bristled and trembled at first yip and Roz banned Ollie from the house. Charlie was clearly terrified. The vet surmised that his arrival at Roz’s had been the end of a chase and his instinct for survival outweighed any puppy’s friendliness. Anne could visit, but Ollie must stay in the car.

​Roz’s old cat died that winter though she hadn’t seemed unhappy to have a housemate. She was just very old and tired and really wanted only to sleep. Neither Roz nor Charlie missed her much, yet Roz often thought “she was supposed to be my last pet.” Roz’s stomachaches were unending these days and she knew, before her doctor confirmed it, that the cancer was back. At ninety-two, she’d been anticipating her mortality for years: selling the farm, building a small one-story house in the lower field, plowing under the huge gardens and building manageable raised beds; but that was twenty-five years ago; and the magnolia, she planted in the southwest corner, was now thirty feet tall.

​The years raced by. Roz had kept working into her nineties, done T’ai Chi each week, organized charity events, written mysteries that folks actually bought and read, driven-alone five hours every month to oversee the care and then the will of her former sister-in-law. She’d lunched and taken day trips with friends, hosted dinner parties for twelve. This summer, however, Roz was tired. Reluctantly, she let her routine slip, allowed herself a nap after lunch, accepted occasional help or a meal from a friend. She’d always been the one offering support, not receiving it.

​Like many, I stopped in more often, stayed a few minutes longer than usual. I took her fresh asparagus from my garden, the Swiss chard seedlings she’d craved. Anne organized an afternoon of weeding. My husband, Charlie (no coincidence – Roz always the flirt, adored him), brought equipment to mow and trim. Roz watched for a while then went in to nap. Later, as Roz served us lemonade, Charlie cat jumped into my lap. Observing, Roz wondered aloud what would happen if she could not care for him. We reassured her, should he ever need a different home, he would have one with us. Over the next few weeks, she began that same conversation at least a dozen times.

​The August days grew shorter; her daughter came to visit “for a while.” I called less often with Kate there. Then one early evening Kate called us. Could we come down immediately? Roz was demanding to see us. Her mother, she said, had had a stroke but refused to be hospitalized. Hospice had arranged palliative care.

​Terrified of what to expect, we drove in silence. Roz, her once beautiful face drooping a bit, lay in her bed, propped or protected by pillows with the cat snuggled close. We had to lean in to make out what she struggled to say. “I have to be sure that you will take Charlie-cat.” ​“Of course,” we reassured her, “but not tonight. You need to be together.” She tried to say more, but sank back onto the pillows. We stayed a while, talking with Kate and the others gathered around the bed, knowing Roz could hear us, but not really including her in the conversation. I remember telling her “You’re still beautiful,” and seeing a smile in her eyes. When we were pretty sure she was sleeping, we quietly edged our way out.

​Anxious to wrap things up quickly, Kate, direct as always, called again the day Roz died. “If you want the cat, you’ll need to come this afternoon.” Perhaps she did not trust that we were sincere in our offer or maybe she was just anxious to take care of the chores that follow a death. I couldn’t decide. I drove slowly, my vision clouded with tears. The long driveway looked the same; the house looked the same: but everything felt wrong: out of place. Somehow, I kept thinking Roz would pop out the door, but it was only Kate who matter-of-factly handed me a bag with cat toys, cat dishes, cat blankets, cat magnets, and Charlie’s vet records, followed by an oversized cat carrier occupied by a vocally displeased, twenty pound, orange cat. We talked the whole ride home – or I talked reassuringly and Charlie cat yowled, both of us in mourning.

​Out of his cage, though, Charlie marched around the house, sniffing and alert, then, somehow assured, settled into my lap. We sat together as the day grew dusky, each beginning to relax and accept our loss and each other. In the coming days, Charlie-cat followed me around, sat by the shower, leaned on my computer. After a while, when I felt it safe to allow him outside, he trailed me into my gardens and sprawled out as I weeded.

Epilogue

Charlie-cat stayed with us for two years. One late summer afternoon, we left him outside, asleep in the sun on the deck, while we were away for a few hours. He had never roamed. That bear hunters were training their dogs nearby did not occur to us. Later, we surmised that, terrified and possibly chased by the baying hounds, Charlie-cat ran. We scoured the nearby woods, alerted the neighbors, asked around as far away as Roz’s old neighborhood. We called his name dozens of times a day, but Charlie-cat did not return. It was months before we gave up hope.

I envision him, bony and matted, arriving at yet another house where a kindly human asks, “Who might you be and to whom do you belong?”


Hedda’s Challenge
Robert Hunn

Hedda knew that she would eventually go blind. It was hereditary. She has been preparing her life for the inevitable. Once that happened, she would have to adapt in ways she was still unsure of. Her story starts in Maine but then moves to San Francisco.

She and her husband had a good life in Portland. He was a successful professor and they often traveled together when he lectured around the world. She had been a pediatric social worker. Now that their son was grown and out of the house, she pursued her interests of gardening and sewing. She designed and constructed her own clothes which her friends considered quite fashionable.

She could tell her eyes were changing when she hit sixty. Images were less crisp, and her glasses seemed to get thicker and heavier every year. She constantly thought of what the future would be for her and how she would need to adjust, adapting to a world that she could not see. The impending loss of sight and natural aging would sometimes send her into deep depression until some simple event – her husband’s hug, reading something that touched her or seeing a plant bursting with color – would shake her out of her low state back to her often-cheery self.

Her sixty-third year was exceptionally difficult. Her husband of thirty-two years was tragically killed in an automobile accident. He was travelling at normal speed through a busy Boston intersection when he was T-boned by another car. The driver stupidly, tragically and fatally ran a red light.

Hedda was devastated.

Despite having many friends in Portland, Maine she still felt alone. She and her husband shared so much, appreciating jazz and classical music, fine art and theater. They hiked all over New England – Mount Katahdin, sections of the AT trail and walkways along the Maine shore. All of that evaporated with his death. Her vitality escaped her.

All she could see were the many challenges ahead – no partner in her life, her total loss of vision, no one to help her with all the changes. Fortunately, money was not an issue due to the car tragedy settlement, her husband’s life insurance and what he had left her. But none of that mattered to her. She wanted the life she had, not the life she was now facing. She would have to practically invent a new life. A life without a partner, without sight and other unanticipated challenges.

She continued to live in their house, but she knew she would have to move to a safer environment. As her eyesight became worse and she could not drive she heard less and less from her friends of many years. She was rarely invited to join friends for cultural events. She was dismayed when a new friend who was rapidly losing her own sight shared her reality with Hedda. “They don’t know what to do with us, as if we are now different. They get uncomfortable because they see us as disabled. We are now ‘sidelined.’ “Wow! I did not expect this at all.” She was very saddened by this revelation. She felt as capable as she had ever been. She fell into a month-long depression.

Then she got angry. “To hell with them!” She was going to live her life to the fullest that she could.

She knew about the many resources available to “the blind.” She used this term cynically when talking to government support agencies since they treated anyone who sought any vision assistance as “the blind.” She and people she knew who had also lost perfect vision preferred the term sight impaired.

Hedda knew that she would need to move to a safer place, more walkable year-round, perhaps an urban setting. She purchased a small house in the Bernal Heights area of San Francisco. She wanted to fill her days and evenings with the cultural life of the Bay Area, meanwhile she continued taking classes in Braille.

Her new house, a cottage, was near a quiet street filled with all kinds of amenities. She still had enough sight to walk around her new neighborhood. She had a walk-out back yard which became a luxurious garden. She knew that eventually she would not be able to see the flowers and plants, but she could smell and feel everything. She made sure there was nothing planted with thorns or prickers.

Hedda and her husband had always smoked marijuana. They loved getting a buzz on and then going to hear music or viewing an art exhibit. This was never going to happen again. She did find some relief when she discovered THC edibles. She would not have to try to light something with her fading depth perception.

She became such a familiar patron at the cultural venues that staff knew her well. She simply called a taxi or UBER and had them drop her off at the front door. The staff would then show her to her seat from there. She tipped very well.

She particularly liked to dress in outrageous outfits. She had arranged her clothes very carefully, so she always knew exactly where each piece was hung or placed in a drawer. She mixed and matched outfits that would turn heads, particularly at the symphony or the Jazz Center. She loved to shock people seated near her when she heard disparaging whispers about her garb. “Can you tell me what I am wearing? Since I am blind, I have no idea what I grabbed?” She loved listening to the women muttering that carried on among her seat mates when they realized she was blind.

“The poor thing, she has no idea.”

“I actually think it’s quite stylish!”

“I have never seen those colors together on someone, hmm.”

Hedda’s hearing was very good and she smiled each time she heard the critiques.

Her new friend Irma who had recently completely lost her sight told Hedda that her greatest difficulty was knowing what to wear, given she could no longer differentiate garments by sight, just feel. She had organized the placement of her clothes when she could see so she knew what was where. But eventually it all became jumbled. Occasionally a friend would say “Irma, let me tell you what you are wearing” and Irma would be appalled. Hedda could see the dilemma she would be facing once she could not differentiate colors or patterns of the clothes she owned or wished to purchase. Hedda had real fashion sense from her years of sewing and interest in creating garments. She and Irma devised a rudimentary method of labelling their clothes with braille tags. Hedda bought a braille printer. With the help of a “seeing” friend she made up small tags in braille that would describe the garment; blue, red, or yellow stripes or solid with as much detail as possible without writing a paragraph. They attached the new tags to all their clothes in an obscure but consistent place.

Utilizing her new computer technically adapted for the sight impaired, Hedda shared her clothes ID system with the sight impaired group on Facebook. The responses were immediate, “Please do this for me, I will pay any amount.”

These immediate and numerous requests made an impression. Hedda started a new venture. She contracted with a clothes marketing firm to develop the idea. Hedda liked the business name of BAT fashions since she often referred to herself as “blind as a bat.”

“So, let’s put it out there.” She said, “It’s catchy, if not possibly offensive.”

Women’s boutiques talked to her about labeling some of their clothes.

Hedda became so busy with developing the business she put out an ad on social media sites. “Looking for a woman to work in women’s fashion business. Fashion design and marketing experience preferred. Sight-impaired essential.” Her ad created quite a stir. No one had ever specified a qualification of “sight impaired essential” before. Blind people are often the victim of employment discrimination. Employers are senselessly unsure of what adjustments or adaptations need to be made. Hedda knew that sight impaired workers were proven to be reliable, hardworking and very adaptable particularly given the new technology today.

She was flooded with applicants from all over the country. May Bendell was the final candidate. She had majored in fashion design and marketing at the San Francisco Art Academy but never graduated due to her sudden loss of eyesight. She convinced Hedda that her Braille labelling program and fashions could have a very broad market, all ages. May knew how to develop web sites and together they developed an APP as a resource for the sight impaired.

Hedda and May worked with a clothes manufacturer to create her own clothing line. Braille labels could be attached, always tucked in a convenient out sight spot when the garment was being made. They also developed a code for each type of garment that would be on a laminate chart with more detailed description in braille. The chart would simply hang in the closet. They even made sure the laminate had no sharp corners. Hedda’s business took off and she hired more sight impaired employees even a young man who had gone to the Fashion Institute in NYC but also had to leave prematurely due to sudden loss of sight.

For the first time since her husband’s death Hedda felt alive, she felt vital. She was very optimistic, really thrilled, that she was developing a business that would enhance the lives of sight impaired women. She especially enjoyed adding her personal design touch to some of the fashions.

Although BAT fashions had become a successful business, Hedda missed the touch and intimacy of a male companion in her life. She missed the tender moments of togetherness. She enjoyed her cadre of friends with whom she shared many like interests, although none of them enjoyed jazz as much as she did. She got a seeing-eye dog and named him Thelonious after her favorite musician. She and Theo walked everywhere. Up and down the hills of San Francisco. For occasional amusement she acted like she was deaf around new people. She always said, “It is amazing what people will say about you when they think you cannot hear.”

She went to hear Herbie Hancock one evening at the Jazz Center. She was brought to her seat as usual. Hancock was playing with quite a group, Joshua Redmon, Christian McBride, Nick Payne and John Mayall’s grandson Norm. As she prepared to sit in her aisle seat Thelonious started acting differently. Approaching the aisle seat in the row in front of hers was Edward Lucas. “Excuse me,” Hedda said. “Someone is playing with my dog. Thelonious is a seeing-eye dog and I would appreciate it if you left her alone.”

She then heard Edward say, “Well excuse me, someone is playing with my dog and she is a seeing-eye dog, please stop it.” After a slight pause they realized that they were both sight impaired. Already their respective dogs were getting to know each other and enjoying it. Once they understood what had occurred they started to laugh.

Hedda asked, “What is your dog’s name?”

Edward responded, “Why it is Herbie, named after you know who. And yours?”

“Thelonious, after you know who.”

Edward responded, “Well isn’t that something that our seats are together here at the end of the aisles. I hope you enjoy the show.”

They settled in. The dogs sat side by side cozily leaning against each other at the end of each aisle.

Hedda and Edward talked about the performances throughout the intermission. After the performance they continued their conversation across the street at the popular post-concert hangout. As they entered Hedda heard greetings directed at Edward.

“Edward, so good to see you.”

“Edward, how are you doing?”

“Edward, wasn’t Herbie magnificent tonight?”

Edward answered, “Thank you, thank you. Great to see you all. This is my friend,” and then he stopped. “Forgive me, but I don’t know your name.”

“My name is Hedda.”

Edward cocked his head. “How lovely.”

“This is my friend Hedda and this is Thelonious.”

“Welcome madam. Here are the menus. I will be back shortly. First, would you like some water, plain or sparkling?”

Hedda responded, “I would actually like sparkling, no fruit.”

“I will have the same,“ Edward said softly.

Hedda then said, “I don’t know why restaurants give us menus when we can’t see a damn thing.”

Edward then offered, “Try this one, you might find it helpful.”

Hedda opened it to find everything written in Braille.

“Well, I’ll be damned. I have never been to a restaurant that had a menu written in Braille. Oh, except for that new trendy place where they only hire blind people. The place is pitch black with just braille menus. You hear a lot of ‘This is not what I was expecting.’”

“I’ve been there a few times.“ Edward remarked. “It is different and fun to talk to the staff, but the food is not worth it.”

Hedda responded, “I agree, I think I got ill the only time I went. I won’t elaborate.”

“I took four menus from here and had them translated into Braille. Then I told all my blind friends and now they come here often. They also give the seeing-eye dogs treats here. Jimmy, the maître d’, said they had six or seven people with dogs here one evening. It was quite a scene with the dogs sniffing each other and their owners laughing at the sounds coming from them all.”

“Edward, this is just lovely. Now that I know what your name is, tell me a little bit about yourself.”

“Well, Hedda, I was going to ask you the same thing.”

Music was playing in the background; mostly selections by known artists – Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Bill Evans, Max Roach, Ahmad Jamal, Stanley Turrentine, and many others. During their break, each musician stopped by the table to say hello to Edward who they called Eddie.

Edward paused and said “I grew up outside of Mobile, Alabama. I attended the University of San Francisco. I liked this area so much I stayed. I was married for thirty-five years. My dear wife Clara died of cancer fifteen years ago.”

“What kind of work did you do?”

“I first worked as a machinist for a company in South San Francisco. It was a good company and they treated everyone very well. I then worked for the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. I used my skills as a machinist to build devices used in medical research. It was a very interesting place to work. Good people. I worked there until my eyesight loss forced me to quit. They accommodated me for a longtime. It was my choice to leave. I did not want to be the sympathetic hire. And you, how have you spent your life?”

Hedda started talking, then stopped. She had not had a conversation with anyone about her past or who she was, is in a very long time. She was happy to be sharing again. Hedda and Edward closed the place at 2:00 a.m., both eager to continue building a beautiful new relationship.


Blue Eyes
Elizabeth Sterner

I have unhappily resigned myself to being alone. I never met the man of my dreams. Like anyone my age, I have many good memories and yet there is a space inside me that remains unfilled. I was never really happy living on my own. I often felt lonely so far from my east coast friends and family despite friendships with colleagues and their spouses at UCLA. At times, my apartment felt more like a trap than a home. During those dark times, I would become unreasonably jealous of the life that my best friend Jane had with her husband Henry. Why hadn’t I been as fortunate as Jane? I longed to share my life with someone.

From the first day that I met her, I liked Jane. She was a petite, dark haired girl who wore horn rimmed glasses over her bright blue eyes. Jane was very gregarious while I was the studious introvert. Somehow our contrasting personalities led to our becoming fast friends during college. Our senior year Jane met Henry and fell in love. They had a beautiful summer wedding on his family dairy farm in Cambridge, VT along the Lamoille River.

Over the years I have enjoyed my visits to Vermont that gave me a respite from my lonely existence in the bustling city of Los Angeles. Strange that living in such a big city surrounded by millions of people, I was lonelier than Jane and Henry on their farm outside a tiny village. Though it was a hardscrabble existence, Jane and Henry happily embraced farm life. Last year their happiness was overshadowed by the news of Henry’s pancreatic cancer. As he and Jane faced his mortality, I felt sad for my friend who would soon know how lonely I have felt all these years.

Jane and Henry put the farm up for sale as Jane could not manage it on her own. During my summer break, I helped her sort through their possessions as she chose what she would take to the house she was buying in the village. Fortunately, Henry died just before the sale of the farm and was not forced to move from the only home he had ever known. Flying back to LA after the funeral, I pondered how my life would have been different if I had found someone to love me like Henry had loved Jane. I decided, enough is enough. This will be my last year teaching. It is time to live close to those I love.

Now I volunteer at the village library a few days a week. I enjoy being there among the books that feel like friends and smell of paper, ink, and glue. The red brick library sits in the middle of town and has been a surprisingly wonderful place for me to meet the local people. I have settled into my life here and I am content. I spend time with my family and best friend anytime I wish, and I am getting to know the rest of the community.

On Friday morning as I get ready to go to the library, I find myself thinking back to Wednesday when a pleasant looking man I did not recognize came through the heavy glass double doors of the entrance. He had snow white hair, bright blue eyes and laugh lines that crinkled when he smiled at me. After browsing the shelves, he came up to check out and I spied the latest Ken Follett book in his pile.

“I read this. It’s excellent! Have you read the others in this series?”
“No” he answered, “though I have read other books by him.”
“Well, that’s actually okay, because this is the prequel to the other three even though it is the most recently written.”
“I hope I’ll have time to read all of these before they are due back. I hesitated over taking the Follett book because it is pretty long.”
“I found it a fast read.” I replied. “I see you also like Charles Todd and Louise Penny.
“Yes, mysteries and historical fiction are my favorites.”
“Mine too!”
“I’m Sam, by the way.”
“I’m Leigh, as in Vivian not Robert E.” I laughed, feeling my face flush as I feel a frisson of excitement.

Later my morning reverie is interrupted by the ring of my phone. It is Jane.
“Will you come to dinner tomorrow night? I’m hungry for lasagna and need some help eating it.”
“Only if you let me bring dessert. I just saw a great cheesecake with blueberry compote recipe that I am anxious to try out.” I reply.
“Sounds delicious, it’s a deal. Let’s say 6:00.”
“Great! I wonder if…”
“I have to run, there’s someone at the door. See you tomorrow night.”
I was going to ask Jane if she knows Sam. It will have to wait until tomorrow.

When I arrive at Jane’s on Saturday, to my complete surprise, Sam opens the door just as I reach for the handle.
“Hi” he says eyeing the basket in my hands. I heard you were bringing dessert.”
“Hi, I didn’t know you would be here tonight.” I exclaim, and then worry that he will think I did not want him to be there. “I’m sorry,” I stammer. “I am glad to see you and yes, I made cheesecake and homemade blueberry compote to go with it.”
Sam smiles, “That sounds delicious!”

I am still recovering from the surprise when Jane steps into the hall. She hugs me and takes my coat. Why is Sam here? Jane has not mentioned that she is seeing someone. I raise an eyebrow at her but she doesn’t notice. Drat, just when I had started to let myself have a glimmer of hope.

We move out of the hall into the cheery living room for drinks. I sit in a dark red and black brocade wing back chair close to the fire. Sam pours our drinks and then sits across the fire from me.
“Have you known Jane long?” I ask.
“Yes, I was Henry’s good friend, but I lived in Boston until very recently.” Sam informs me.

My mind is whirling with more questions about their relationship that I don’t dare ask. I sip my drink instead and listen to Jane and Sam chat about last week’s town meeting. Rising from the sofa, Jane says “I think the lasagna has cooled enough to slice it now. Sam will you carry it into the dining room while I slice the bread? Leigh, would you light the candles and fill the water glasses? The pitcher is on the sideboard.”

We move into the dining room with the beautiful maple farmhouse table that Henry’s grandfather made years ago. As I light the candles, they reflect in the burnished tabletop. A large green salad in a wooden bowl sits in the middle of three place settings. The rich smell of lasagna and garlic bread wafts from the kitchen. I lift the antique blue and white pottery pitcher and fill the three water glasses. Taking a deep breath, I remind myself that Sam was Henry’s friend, and it does not mean that he is in love with Jane. Although I wouldn’t blame him. Everyone loves Jane.

After filling our plates and enjoying the first few bites Jane says “Sam tells me you met him at the library.”
“Yes, on Wednesday.”
Sam smiles at me before turning to Jane. “This lasagna is delicious as usual.”

His lack of comment about our meeting leaves me feeling that my attraction to him is totally one sided. I take a deep breath and focus on the delicious food. After clearing the dinner dishes from the table, we decide to have our dessert in the living room by the fire.

“This cheesecake is delicious,” says Jane.
“I love the blueberry compote with it. I could eat this every day.” Sam smiles while addressing me directly for the first time since we started the meal.
“Thank you. I love making desserts.”
“I hope I get to try more of them. You ladies have spoiled me tonight.”

At nine o’clock Sam and I rise and thank Jane for her hospitality and the delicious dinner. As we head out the door, I give Jane a hug and Sam gives her a peck on the cheek. I am even more confused about their relationship. Perhaps they are only good friends.

Before I finish my coffee the next morning, Jane has rung me up.
“Hi! What do you think of Sam?” she asks.
Not sure where this is heading, I tentatively answer, “I think he is nice, why do you ask?”
“Because he hasn’t stopped talking about you since he met you at the library.”
I am totally floored. “What?”
“You heard me. He seems very smitten.”
I feel a twinge of hope. “Are you sure? Sam barely had anything to say to me last night that wasn’t about my dessert.”
“Yes, I’m sure” Jane responds. “I wouldn’t lie to you!”
“Why didn’t you say anything before I came over last night?”
“I wanted to give you a chance to get to know each other. I didn’t want to push him on you. I was waiting to see if I could tell what you thought about him before I said anything.”
“I would like to get to know him better,” I reply. “So, what should I do now?” I am suddenly eager to see Sam again, but I can’t think clearly. I don’t want to make more of it than it might be.
“Next Saturday is the library fundraiser auction and pot luck, right?”
“Yes.”
“I know that Sam is planning on attending, so there you go.”
“Okay.” I answer hesitantly.
“I’m sure that will give the two of you a chance to talk and get to know each other better.”
“Have you forgotten that I am going to be extremely busy? I’m in charge of the silent auction.”
Jane laughs “You still have to sit down to eat, don’t you?”.
“Okay, okay, that’s true” I say feeling like a schoolgirl with a crush instead of a grown woman.
“We have a plan!” Jane giggles and rings off.

The week goes by with nerve wracking slowness. I do not see Sam at the library. Saturday finally arrives, I am as nervous as I was when I waited for my tenure to be granted at UCLA. I decide to wear my favorite yellow knit dress that compliments my complexion and my waistline. I apply some lipstick and check myself in the mirror for the umpteenth time as I get ready to head out the door. When I arrive at the school cafeteria, I get busy setting out the donated auction items and putting bid sheets and pens by each one. Soon the room is filling up with smiling, chatting neighbors. I look around. I do not see Sam anywhere. I know that it is early and that not everyone has arrived, but I feel a little disappointed and very anxious.

Soon I see Jane coming in the door. She catches my eye, frowns, and shakes her head. Oh, no! The only thing I can think is that she is indicating that Sam is not coming. I feel very deflated. All that primping for nothing! Jane comes over and tells me that Sam called her to say that he would not be able to come after all.
“Did he say why?” I ask.
“He was in a rush and said he had something he had to take care of right away in Boston. He didn’t give me any details.”

I did not realize just how much my heart was set on seeing him tonight until I felt my eyes start to well up with tears. I should have guarded my heart more carefully. Why did I think I would find love at this time of life after searching for years and coming up empty handed? As the auction proceeds, I smile bravely at my neighbors through my disappointment.
Another excruciating week goes by without seeing Sam at the library. I fear he has gotten cold feet. I am sure he knows plenty of charming women in Boston. A second week passes. Jane and I have decided that she must have been mistaken and that Sam was not romantically interested in me.

On Friday evening, Jane calls. “Sam called a few minutes ago to catch up and told me that he has been extremely busy since he got back from Boston. He brought someone named Frieda back with him. I was just going to ask about Frieda when he said he had to go.”
“Well that’s that then. He is already attached to someone. I am disappointed. He seems like such a great guy.”
“You’re right. He is interesting and kind. I was hoping you two might connect. I am sorry to bring you such disappointing news. Why don’t we get together for coffee tomorrow morning?”

On Monday morning I am at the library shelving books that were dropped off over the weekend. The sunny day makes the library feel bright and cheery. My mood has lifted despite my latest disappointment. I am startled by a tap on my shoulder. I spin around and find myself looking into Sam’s blue eyes.
“Hello, Sam. How are you? I haven’t seen you in here lately.”
He raises an eyebrow at my tone of reserve. “I’m fine. I’ve been quite busy. How have you been?”
“Fine.” I answer while glancing over his shoulder looking to see if he brought Frieda, but I see no one.
“I was wondering if you could help me find the next Ken Follett book.”
“Did you finish The Evening and the Morning?”
“Yes, I really enjoyed reading it.”

I start to relax. He doesn’t seem to know that Jane was trying to set us up or that I was interested in him. I help him find The Pillars of the Earth and check him out. As he heads for the front doors, I quietly sigh. I am walking back into the stacks to continue shelving books when I hear footsteps behind me.
“Leigh, would you like to have dinner with me on Friday evening?”
I am so surprised that I can’t even speak as I slowly turn to him.
“I hope I haven’t offended you by asking.”
“Is this a date?” I blurt out, feeling my cheeks turn crimson.
“Yes, is that okay?”
“Yes, but, wait, what about your friend from Boston?” I ask as my initial excitement fades.
“My friend from Boston?” Sam asks with a puzzled expression on his face. Then he breaks out into a huge grin. “You mean Frieda? She’s my new cocker spaniel.”
“Oh, a dog!”
“Yes, so what about dinner?”
Joy and hope stream through me as I answer, “I would love to go to dinner with you.”


Thought for the Day

Compassion is an action word with no boundaries
PRINCE

How we treat one another is the only thing that matters
SAMITE MULONDO

One reason that cats are happier than people is that they have no newspapers
GWENDOLYN BROOKS

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles St. Patrick’s Day Edition

Corona Chronicles
St. Patrick’s Day Edition

A song: Irish Blessing

May the road rise before you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall soft upon your fields
And, until we meet again,
May you be held in the palm of God’s hand.

Photos by Janet Williams


A St “Patrick” Story
Peter Reilly

Whether the lens through which you view our great country is blue or red, rural or urban, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, etc. you can’t deny the thing we almost all have in common – we’re all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. On March 17th, St Patrick’s Day, it’s hard not to be reminded that most of us came from across the ocean. After German ancestry the second most populous ancestry in the United States is Irish. Nationwide, the population claiming some Irish ancestry is estimated to be 11.2% with New York state having the largest at over 13%. Certainly, if there is a success story for an immigrant population coming to the United States it is the migration from Ireland. Most Irish immigrants arrived dirt poor with little or no education, but many would rise to the highest places in business, entertainment and government. While most people believe John Kennedy was the first US president with predominantly Irish ancestors, he was not. Both of Andrew Jackson’s parents were born in County Antrim, in Northern Ireland. They relocated to the United States in 1765, two years before his birth. The fact was that in the 1820s when Jackson sought the presidency, being Irish wasn’t at the top of the list for electability!

Coming from the New York metropolitan area, one is usually very much aware of one’s nationality. As you move geographically away, your nationality awareness diminishes. John Lindsay, a former mayor of New York, used to talk about the myth that New York city was this “great melting pot” of immigrants. Only it wasn’t! In the city there was the Italian neighborhood, the Irish Neighborhood, the Polish neighborhood and on and on. Aside from the occasional “West Side Story” coming together, there wasn’t a lot of “melting” happening in the city. Consequently, all the different parades became a big deal for whatever nationality is celebrating that day.

For many of us, a trip back to the country our ancestors came from is something very special. About 15 years ago, my wife Maggie and I were lucky enough to take that trip and be able to enjoy it with our son – who happens to be named Patrick. Patrick is an integral part of this story as he provided the push to get us to Ireland. 

Patrick has made a life on the ocean, sailing boats of all types. In 2006 he won a big race in the Antigua Classic Regatta and to celebrate he immediately sailed his small boat (23 ft.) across the ocean to Ireland. I should mention he was alone and the boat had no engine! Enough to give lots of parents gray (make that white!) hair. At his urging, we decided to visit him in Ireland and I would try to trace my family roots. I am third generation on the immigrant chart. My grandparents, who had landed at Ellis Island, NY, were from County Cavan, Ireland. Beyond that I knew almost nothing. The fact was, like many if not most, the reason they came here was because conditions were “God awful” in the old country. When they got here they wanted to become citizens and Americans as fast as they could. They worked hard, absorbed as much of America as they could, married, raised a family and served their new country. The sad fact for me is once here they didn’t talk about where they came from, the family they left or how scared they must have been. For sure, I should have asked more, but I didn’t. Life and growing up got in the way.

Our trip to Ireland actually started with a bonus. The airline had overbooked and were looking for volunteers to fly the next day. This is back in the day when compensation for delaying your flight was really worthwhile. We volunteered and ended up getting a flight and hotel deal to London a few months later. So we flew out the next day to Ireland, rented a car and set off to meet up with Patrick. We met and decided to drive all around Ireland and wind up in the town my grandparents had come from. At the county seat in Cavan we visited one of the many ancestry places that will try to trace your roots for you. We knew the town and the last name. The only problem is our last name is oh so common in County Cavan, Ireland. Nevertheless, they gave us something to go on.

My name is Peter. My brother, the oldest, is Philip. My father is Philip. My grandfather who came here from Ireland is Peter. So when we get to Ireland we think we’re looking for Philip or Peter. At the ancestry place they traced my great grandfather who in the registry of births signed his name as parent with an “X” and someone had printed his name for him – PATRICK REILLY. It turns out that when we named our son, unbeknown to us, we named him for the Reilly who sent his children to a new life.

There is one other footnote to the story. My grandparents, it turns out, were born and raised in different villages within walking distance from each other. We had always assumed that my grandfather came to the United States first and met my grandmother here. It turns out the records show that my grandmother came first with her family and then within a year my grandfather arrived alone at the age of 17. They had to have known each other in Ireland before coming to America. We’ll never know for sure, but I like to think it is a story of young love following young love.

If there’s one thing we should tell our children, it is to ask questions of us. I deeply regret that I didn’t ask more, because at some point so much gets lost and there’s no one to ask…


Photos by Audrey Deveney


Family vacation
Marcie Porter

Ireland was, and probably still is, the perfect country in which to travel with children. In May of 1984 we took our two boys, then 6 and 9, with us to Ireland, Scotland, and England, with the primary objective of tracking down and photographing ancient standing stones. Pre GPS and even decent maps, our long days were sometimes spent driving around on nearly empty country roads searching for the elusive old apple tree that marked a field or a trail in our guidebook. We climbed stiles and made our way through fields of sheep or cows, occasionally encountering a welcoming landowner. For the boys we made a point of spending time in one of the ruined castles or abbeys we encountered nearly every day, perfect for climbing and exploring—and imagining.

We had PB&J picnic lunches and dinners in pubs, which often welcomed the boys with glasses of milk on the bar that they could sip while watching the telly. And the B&B host families, sometimes with small children of their own, were understanding about such challenges as laundry that had reached critical mass. One mother offered me her washing machine, after which we laid all the bits and pieces of clothing around the house on the registers to dry overnight. In the end we saw countless stones of every configuration, explored islands, villages, and barrens, and had a magical time. Having the boys with us made our trip especially fun, despite my father’s dire warning that they would complicate it and wouldn’t remember anything. I kept a detailed journal, thank goodness, as well as lots of photos, to insure that that will never happen.


C. S. Lewis was Irish
Deirdre Good

Dunluce Castle and the Glens of Antrim

When we ignore or gloss over major aspects of a writer like C. S. Lewis—roots, religious affiliation, ethnicity—we diminish our own understanding of our subject, rendering the person less rich and less than complete.

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 29th, 1898. His grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Hamilton, Rector of St. Mark’s, Dundela in East Belfast, baptized Clive Staples Lewis in St Mark’s on January 29th 1899. Lewis’ parents were from County Cork. His father Albert was a solicitor whose parents moved to Belfast to work in the shipbuilding industry and his mother Florence, “Flora,” was the daughter of a Protestant clergyman who served a parish in East Belfast. She studied at the Royal University of Ireland in Belfast where she gained First class Honors in Logic and Second-Class Honors in Mathematics.

But Lewis is Belfast, Northern Ireland’s most famous literary son. St Anne’s Cathedral website invited people on the 50th anniversary of his death in 2013 to record in a leather-bound book how they have been influenced by Lewis’ writings. Its website also highlights Lewis’ family connection to the Cathedral: his uncle, Sir William Ewart and several of the Ewart family are commemorated there. The C. S. Lewis 2013 Festival programme notes that after his father removed Lewis from Campbell College Belfast to send him to school at Malvern College in England in 1913, he became an atheist there at age fifteen. These are lively discussions of Lewis’ identities. They recognize the importance of his Irish identity and Church of Ireland affiliations but the BBC report of the 2013 Lewis commemoration at Westminster Abbey labelled him as an author of the best-selling Chronicles of Narnia and as a respected Oxford scholar and literary critic failing to note his Irish origins.

To take Lewis’ Irish character seriously is to recognize and define him as someone with two cultural identities: he was born Irish, and despite the fact that he resided and worked in England, he maintained an Irish identity: heaven in The Great Divorce is an “emerald-green” land. Although Lewis lived most of his life as an Oxford and Cambridge scholar, his dreams were of Ireland as he notes in his diary, and he visited the north or the south of Ireland almost every year. Lewis once described heaven as “Oxford placed in the middle of County Down.” In the Glens of Antrim (Northern Ireland) and in the golden sands of the Antrim coast at Portrush, Ballycastle and elsewhere, we glimpse Narnia. The Horse Bree in The Horse and His Boy, describes it: “The happy land of Narnia—Narnia of the heathery mountains and the thymy downs, Narnia of the many rivers, the plashing glens, the mossy caverns and the deep forests… Oh the sweet air of Narnia!” That Bree speaks of glens identifies an Irish (or Scottish, Welsh, or Cornish) landscape. What confirms Lewis’ voice is the cadences of exile that Bree expresses—as Lewis himself does—in yearning for a distant homeland. Such longing became a theme connected to joy in his writings: in his book Surprised by Joy, Lewis says “All joy…emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.” Irish currents run through the novels: to call Peter High King is to use historical Irish descriptions of High Kings of Ireland ruling over lesser kings and queens. Peter is High King in relation to Queens Susan, Lucy and King Edward in the Chronicles of Narnia.

As for his own reflections, Lewis himself surmised that he wasn’t recognized as an Irish author in his lifetime perhaps because he was a self-identified Irish Protestant atheist not a Roman Catholic. Alistair McGrath, in his excellent 2103 biography, C.S.Lewis–A Life, Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet, says, “many still regard Lewis as lying outside the pale of true Irish cultural identity on account of his Ulster Protestant roots.” While McGrath discusses Lewis’ various identities including his Ulster Protestant roots, his atheism, his conversion to theism and then Christianity, and his Anglicanism, still other questions remain unaddressed: how did Lewis negotiate expressions of his dual cultures? Was he drawn to authors like William Butler Yeats, “an author exactly after my own heart,” he says in a letter to a friend, precisely because he wanted to investigate how Yeats “de-Anglicized” his own literary vernacular which he describes thus: “Yeats writes plays and poems of rare spirit and beauty about our old Irish mythology.” Lewis investigates Irish language in other poets: he sees in Spenser’s poem, Faerie Queen, the effects of Spenser’s sojourn in Ireland with its “quests and wanderings and inextinguishable desires, and Ireland itself – the soft, wet air, the loneliness, the muffled shapes of the hills, the heart-rending sunsets.”

A failure to recognize Lewis’ negotiated Irish identity is a failure to identify central interests of his life and writings. It is challenging to incorporate various religious and ethnic identities into our understanding of people, but our lives and identities are indeed composite and irreducible. By recognizing the intricacies of Lewis’ ethnic and religious identity, we broaden and deepen the means by which we try to understand all aspects of his life and thereby weexpand our own horizons.


Irish Brown Bread

From My Irish Table by Cathal Armstrong, Chef, Washington, D.C.
I make this often for it is delicious especially with smoked salmon.

2 cups of Irish-style whole meal flour
(available from King Arthur, I use regular whole wheat)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, diced
1-3/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg lightly beaten

Make the dough: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly dust a baking sheet with flour. Whisk flours, baking soda, and salt together and rub in butter with your fingertips until it resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and egg and work them into the dough with your hands until incorporated. Do not over mix.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and form it into a a round loaf about 8 inches in diameter. Place on the baking sheet and with a sharp knife cut a cross into the top about 1/2 inch deep. Bake for 40 minutes until well browned. Place on rack and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving with lots of butter.

Nancy Perkins


Thoughts for the Day

Perhaps the most radical act of resistance in the face of adversity is to live joyfully.
~ARI HONARVAR

We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.
~STEPHEN KING

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: May 4, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXVIII

Book Review
Audrey Deveney

“Scusi?” How many books have you read since the pandemic started over a year ago? I have lost count.

But, the last one I read will stay with me for quite some time. Inferno by Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, was published in 2013. I haven’t written a book report since grade school, many, many years ago, but I was compelled to tell you about this story.

If you are into Art, a lover of History, and a Traveler, this book brings all that and more and dumps it in your lap for you to savor and be intrigued by. I was exhausted trying to keep pace with the main character, always on the run.

From Florence, Italy and hidden underground tunnels, we run to catch a mad scientist before he can release a plague on the earth to reduce the ever-increasing numbers of the world’s population. A “designer virus” that could not be cured. Does that sound familiar? You did notice when this book was published, 2013. We have now been dealing with the current mutating virus for over a year in 2020-2021.

The plot then moves on to the beauty and history of Venice. Where and when will the plague begin and how? The mystery, the World Health Organization, clues in the epic poem, “The Inferno” written by Dante Alighieri, and every mode of transportation whirl you around and make you dizzy.

Just when you think there couldn’t be more, you end up in an underground cistern beneath Istanbul, and the Hagia Sophia. This airborne pathogen is about to take over the world. It will reduce the population, but how will it stop doing so?

Need I tell you more! There are 461 pages in this book and your mind will feel like it has been on a magic carpet traveling through time and space. If you have not visited any of these cities, you will want to. If you have, it will bring you back to revisit and learn more about what you saw, smelled, and felt when you were there.

Happy travels!

Venice, Italy
Florence, Italy
Underground cistern in Istanbul, Turkey

Image
Kristin Frangoulis

I never loved you enough
When you sang in harmony,
A symphony of senses,
Smooth and swift,
Silk and steel,
Afraid of your desires,
Honey and heat.

I judged you with a surgeon’s scalpel
Ripping at you.
You never measured up,
Too short, too tall,
Too fat, too thin,
Too big, too small,
Too blond, too curly,
Too straight, too curvy.

I liked you best
When you cradled my babies in warmth,
In safety,
And blossomed them to life.

Later, you avenged me,
Ravished me with pains,
Broken parts,
Some missing,
Sags and bags,
Lines and droops,
Little in the right places.

Yet, I love you now,
The ruins of you
And our time left.


Spring in Belfast
Barbara Gage

At last! Spring is upon us……as I look outside and walk around Belfast I see the gardens all awakening. Green leaves are popping through the soil….are they plants reseeding themselves from last year? New plants donated by the passing birds? Crabgrass or goutweed or something else as invasive…..what will it be? Popping up its head to welcome the new Spring.

Anticipation….some of my fellow gardeners in town know exactly what is popping up in their gardens! But for me, half the excitement is the anticipation to see whether that little green head will fill out its garden space or need to be pulled out before it crowds out the native plants I have been coaching along from year to year.

Joy! As the flower buds appear at the top of the stems and we watch each day as they get closer and closer to opening up. What will it be? Red tulips? Purple tulips? Onions? Did the poppies survive?

Rainfall…..we pray for rain but here come the black flies following the moisture. Will the brown-tailed moths be out? Where are the ticks? Quick! Get the gardening done and get back in the house before it’s too hot!

Ach….the joys of gardening. Summer is coming and we will have time to pick the flowers…enjoy the birds… and let the symphony ring out all across town as crabapples bloom in the park and lilacs pop along the road and roses bloom along the waterfront. Enjoy it while it’s here.


Thoughts for the Day

We cannot let our ideas blind us to our unknowing
~ JANE HIRSHFIELD

The truth is rarely pure and never simple
~ OSCAR WILDE

Let choice whisper in your ear and love murmur in your heart. Be ready. Here comes life.
~ MAYA ANGELOU

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: April 29, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXVII

The Alewife Are Running
Dave Greeley

Come and see an environmental success story in action
The Alewife are running!
Where?
Go to the Maine Rivers Website and copy the Maine Alewife Trail Map.
When?
Right Now!

Take a drive to one of about 15 listed locations where you will see thousands of 10″ to 12″ Alewife making their way into freshwater lakes. Damariscotta and Benton and Blackman Steam have special events….it’s a party! The run on the Sebasticook River has gone from virtually zero to several million fish making it one of the largest Alewife migrations in the world! It shows that we can restore the environment. Bring your camera, there will be eagles and osprey and others looking for a free lunch.


Spring Through a Window
Jim Owen

Our gaunt apple tree
arms wide to embrace sunlight
no leaves, brown grass.

Green grass near garden
raised beds just potential,
birds sing for partners.

Despite red plumage
cardinals shout in tree tops,
desperate for love.


The Tale Of Galen The Robin
Rebecca Jessup

Once a young robin named Galen returned to his parents’ nest at dusk, looking downcast.

“Mom” he said, “I am not sure I’m ever going to get through this dating and mating season. I stand out there on a branch singing the same 5 or 6 notes over and over and over, just hoping to get some kind of answer. It’s boring! And what’s more it’s demeaning! Chirp, chirp, chirrop, chirrop — again and again and again! I want to break out, improvise, figure out some different melodies!”

“Oh, no, dear! You’ll never find a proper wife that way! Just please, Galen, stick to the tried and true. It worked out wonderfully well for your father and me! We’ve raised, oh, it must be at least twelve fledglings! And every other bird we’ve ever heard of has mated this same way. Just stay with it a little longer.”

Galen hung his head. He couldn’t think of anything more to say, so he flew up to the branch overhead for the night, shaking his beak. This is really getting me down, he thought to himself.

The next morning before sunrise, he flew around in search of a promising perch. Once he landed, he began the same song he’d sung over and over — but after a few bars, he sang a harmony line. That made him laugh. He hopped around a bit, pleased with himself, and then let loose with variations — above and below the melody line, speeding up a few bars, and then slowing the tempo way down. He added some tremolo here, and a little doo-wop there. He was having a wonderful time!

The other male robins around him were confused. A few were angry. Hey, cut that out! squawked one. What in the world kind of bird are you, anyway? shouted another. Galen broke from his singing long enough to say I’m an original! and he went back to improvising joyfully.

Soon he noticed a young female robin watching him steadily from the next tree. Was she smiling? It’s hard to tell, even for other robins. But Galen was having such a good time, he wasn’t going to stop his little concert. The female robin hopped a little closer, still watching him. He continued singing his small heart out.

Presently he realized that a mockingbird was imitating him — or trying. He slowed down and hesitated, to give the other bird a chance to answer. The mockingbird trilled back its imitation. Galen answered a slightly different phrase, and the mockingbird copied him, adding a little chorus at the end. Soon the two birds were singing back and forth, and then together, and the birds around them were either leaving or listening. A thrush and a warbler did their best to join in, but the only tunes they could carry were their own mating calls. Still, they did their best, and added to the sense of fun.

Before the day was over, the female robin was openly flirting with Galen and he was flirting back, and the happy band of singers had agreed to meet every week, to practice and work up their own repertoire of music.


Travels with Maureen O’Keefe

In my travels, figurative and literal, I have enjoyed the hobby of collecting little ironies. One finds them all the time when one starts looking…

A few years ago, I revisited a country where I had lived with my family for five years—Sri Lanka. As I say many times, Sri Lanka is a cross between Hawaii and India. It’s a marvelous place, boasting a civilization that dates back to 500BC, four major religions, fabulous food and crafts, and gorgeous tropical beaches. It’s popular with Europeans, but Americans haven’t really discovered its charms. And the bloody and violent civil war which lasted over 25 years didn’t help.

While we lived there, from 1989 to 1994, the prime Minister was blown up at a nearby intersection, and there were bomb attacks in the capital, Colombo. The civil war was incredibly ruthless and barbaric. Violent stabbings and regular bombings dominated daily life for a quarter of a century.

On this trip, the war was at a climatic pitch, as both sides were ramping up for an end. Even though there was no anti-American fervor, one had to be careful. We headed south from Colombo for a beach weekend near Galle in the south. After settling in at the hotel we walked out towards the road and witnessed something remarkable: A bus, which had been barreling down the road at breakneck speed–leaning due to its overcrowding, suddenly braked to a stop. As we edged closer to get a look we saw the reason. The bus had stopped because a small lizard was crossing the road. Sri Lanka is, after all, a Buddhist country, and all life is sacred.
In 1981 I was the national tennis coach for the country of Jordan. In fact I was their first national tennis coach because the Jordan Tennis Federation had just been formed. I had developed a young team of boys ages 13 to 16, and I worked very hard to develop their tennis game. The Tennis Federation was anxious for the team to travel to Arab matches, so I found myself taking the boys to Iraq for the Arab championships. It happened to be during the Iran/Iraq war and as we were entering Iraqi air space we were asked to close our windows. It was rumored in the plane that we did this so we wouldn’t be shot down. I had a few bad moments wondering why I was there.

But all was well, and we were shown to our dorm rooms at a sports facility outside of Bagdad. They had to scramble to get me a single because they had not realized I was female. But it was taken care of quickly and efficiently. The tournament week went well. My players did well, but of course fell to the experienced players from Morocco and Egypt. However, there was one interesting non-tennis event.

It turns out that Moroccan Arabic is different from Jordanian, Levantine Arabic. In fact, the players couldn’t understand each other. I didn’t speak Arabic, and usually could get along easily with my English. However, my team went out on an outing with the Moroccan team, and I found that the Moroccan coach didn’t speak English. He spoke Arabic, French and Spanish. My decent high school Spanish was actually better than my elementary college French, so we conversed in Spanish on our walk around town. He was a very personable young man of energy and charm. We chatted along amiably and I was pleased that I could carry on a conversation in Spanish.

When we got back to the dorms, he pointed to an empty room and said, “Quiero hacer amor contigo.” I blanched. “Imposible!” He looked surprised. “Eres Muslim?” he asked. “No” I said. “Entonces, Si eres Christian, por que no quiere hacerlo??”

My head was spinning. He thought that since I was a Christian woman I would sleep with him. It was a whole new upside down meaning of the word Christian!
For our second Christmas in Jordan we went with another family to Istanbul. What a fabulous city. I’ve been there three times now and I have to say it has the most splendid, magical skyline of any city I’ve ever seen. Coming from the Middle East it looks nearly European. Yet coming from Europe it looks seductively Middle Eastern. The food is delicious, and inexpensive. There is so much to do and see: Topkapi palace, the Hagia Sophia Mosque, the Galata Bridge, the Grand Bazaar—the list goes on and on.

On that first trip in 1981 we tried to fit everything in a few days. We found the Turkish language very difficult, and my husband, a language buff, was trying hard to learn words and phrases in the short time we were there. But “thank you” in Turkish is six syllables long!

Towards the end of our week, we encountered an old man peddling shish kebab skewers at an intersection. He took a hard look at us and said in lovely English, “Buy these wonderful shish kebab skewers, to cook famous Turkish recipes.” My husband, wanting a bit of fun, answered him in French, “je n’pas parler inglais.” Immediately the man answered in beautiful French, describing the skewers as “lifelong souvenirs of Istanbul.” My husband switched to Spanish. The street seller changed to perfect Spanish, his eyes twinkling as he clearly was enjoying himself. Up to a challenge, my husband changed to Arabic. Not to be outdone; the street seller knew Arabic well. So my husband started talking in German, which was no problem for the street seller who answered in fluent and conversational German. Coming to his linguistic limit my husband struggled in halting Russian, and predictably, the kebab seller rattled on in Russian and then some. He stood there and smiled, clearly waiting for the next language. But hubby was done. We had a feeling the Turkish street seller was just getting warmed up.

Of course we bought the skewers!


Thoughts for the Day

The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.
~ WENDELL BERRY

In the bigger scheme of things the universe is not asking us to do something, the universe is asking us to be something. And that’s a whole different thing.
~ LUCILLE CLIFTON

Compassion springs from the heart, as pure, refreshing water, healing the wounds of life.
~ THICH NHAT HANH

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: April 12, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXVI

Not All That Bad?
Arlin Larson

I don’t know about you, but having been vaccinated, I am claiming victory and releasing myself from bondage. No superpowers have emerged from the vaccination – doesn’t it seem like you should feel something palpable after the long build-up of expectations? And, really, staying home most of the time hasn’t been so bad. But Sharon and I will now forge ahead with visiting our son and family in Georgia, and I will go to Hannaford heedless as to who is or isn’t wearing a mask or how close our encounters are.

Similar optimism seems common, perhaps all too common, now that vaccinations are underway, spring has arrived, and people are just tired of being cooped up. Objectively, we are still in the midst of a public health crisis of frightening proportions, but the mood has definitely changed.

Just about a year ago, our lives were put on hold by the outbreak of a new and deadly disease that quickly spread around the world. We were advised that until no one quite knew what (a cure, vaccine, natural attrition?), it would be unwise to engage in most social relations. Safety lay only in isolation. Schools closed, work places closed, people stopped traveling, eating in restaurants, visiting friends. It was going to be a long wait.

A sign of the new, brighter mood is a change in the kinds of Covid-related comments people are making about seniors on online forums. Think back a year. It was quickly apparent that Covid 19 was hitting seniors especially hard, nursing home deaths being the poster child. (This distinguishes Covid 19 from most plagues of the past, which affected younger people more severely.) Some people, actually many, said at the time that the most obvious solution, given younger people’s relative immunity, would be simply to achieve “herd immunity” by allowing the infection to run its course, accepting high senior mortality as unavoidable collateral damage. This would be least disruptive to the economy and to the majority of people’s lives. (In ethics this is the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number.)

Fortunately for us seniors, this course was not followed. Efforts were made instead to contain the disease through social distancing, masking, enhanced cleaning, and the restriction of human interaction. When vaccines finally arrived, there was some debate about who was to be given priority, but that too was basically decided in seniors’ favor by making advanced age the primary criteria for vaccination along with unavoidable occupational exposure. (In ethics this is the principle that one’s first obligation is to the good of the individual.)

Now, with that debate behind us and the tide apparently turning in overcoming the disease, a new debate has arisen. For whom was the pandemic most stressful? Young, working people who were more likely to lose jobs, have children suddenly at home, give up active social lives, be restricted in their opportunities for matchmaking, and have their own education disrupted. Has the pandemic been harder on them or on the seniors who, though more susceptible to Covid, were generally more financially secure, accustomed to social isolation, without children to care for, and didn’t have to work?

The conclusion of the article eliciting these thoughts doesn’t really matter – that seniors continued to report generally better moods than working age people. It was the comments, which piled on exclamations about how much easier the retired generation has it in general. There was also an assumption that seniors are more or less across the board affluent and carefree. I am guessing that most Senior College members have gotten through the pandemic relatively unscathed. However, aren’t there millions of seniors who struggle financially, live in multi-generational family situations, are burdened with any number of infirmities of old age, or are residents of senior facilities where Covid was rampant?

Comparing one person’s happiness or suffering with another’s is not often a profitable thing to do. Each person’s experience is their own, with multi-faceted contexts that are in large part unknowable. It is better to honor each person’s joy or suffering for what it is to them. I do want, however, to raise the question, and it is really a question, of how serious a threat we felt we faced and, if it was dire, whether people should be so quick to say that seniors have really had it pretty easy.

At the beginning, it was widely recognized that seniors faced a far greater threat of serious illness and death. We were told by some to just accept it, buckle up, and sacrifice ourselves so the younger generation could move on. But wouldn’t living in the face of such a threat be a significant cause of distress? Shouldn’t we seniors be given some credit for facing a life-threatening situation with the equanimity we apparently have?

Approximately 425,000 Americans over fifty-five have perished due to Covid. According to recent statistics, people of all ages are infected with Covid 19 at roughly the same rate. However, someone age seventy is about forty times more likely to be hospitalized and well over a thousand times more likely to die. For those over eighty, the figures become dramatically worse.

The feeling never left me that being even momentarily careless or simply unlucky, catching Covid 19 would likely have very serious consequences. Fortunately, my luck held out even when I was careless. How living with that ever-present fear, even if in the background, compares with the greater practical complications faced by working age people, I can’t say. Enough, perhaps, that what we seniors face was not insignificant, even if not everyone can recognize it.


Open Winter
Tycelia Santoro

Few snow days this year
The open ground has invited
frost to dive deep

I walk to the tiny garden
of spring bulbs
Their green fingers reach out

The snow drops want to bloom

When they do
they will bloom my heart


On This Day in History
Audrey Deveney

General Ulysses S. Grant chose Major General Joshua Chamberlain, hero of Gettysburg, to accept the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s army at Appomattox on April 9, 1865.
Joshua Chamberlain was there as a witness and played a huge part in the victory with many soldiers from Maine. He was also to become a Governor of Maine.

Appomattox Courthouse

A Cup of Tea
Brenda Smith

Myriads of thoughts come to me
When I’m brewing fresh hot tea
Using bags or from loose leaves
With sweet honey from the bees.
I think of things that make me happy
Or of the times when I was naughty
I wonder how the world will be
When I, myself, reach age eighty.

I often think of our history
Whenever I see cans of Twining’s tea
How we fought for our liberty
Leaves dumped into the sea
With spite and great frivolity
Our ancestors proudly decreed
“No more taxes! We want to be free!”
Brave rebels causing the British to flee.

While just a girl at my grandmother’s knee
I learned all the facts from A to Z
How to properly partake of tea
As she patiently instructed me
Seriously, I heeded her plea,
“Be polite and mannerly.
Hold your cup delicately.
Point straight up the pinky.”

A civilized afternoon pleasantry
Asked “Some tea? We say, “Mais oui!”
For me, pure brewed is the key
I like a tea that is citrusy,
No cream or sugar, please for me.
Served with biscuits and soft brie,
Sweet scones with jam, some savory.
What a perfect tea party we all agree!
There are many reasons why I drink tea
Sometimes it’s to calm my anxiety
When I’m chilled, it makes me feel toasty
It settles the burning, when food was spicy
The iced version cools when it’s ninety degrees
More so, when enjoyed in the shade of a tree.
Just one cup won’t do, I’ll drink two or three.
But in just a short while, I’ll rush off to pee.


Up the Country
Nancy Perkins

From the time I was nine years old I was packed off every summer to stay with my grandparents. As the eldest of three children and the only girl my mother looked forward to my annual visit knowing that my absence would simplify her life with her younger sons. I, of course, loved the attention and adoration from both sets of grandparents. I would arrive in Richmond via train with a large suitcase to be met by my grandparents, Bebe and Pippy. As their first grandchild, the child of their only child, I was accorded every advantage they could offer plus their unconditional love.

Later in the summer we would visit my great-grandmother and great aunts and uncles, all living together in a white frame house on the hill overlooking the James River. It was to this spot that my great-grandfather brought his bride Ella in 1887 and where she gave birth to and raised five children, Lillian, Roy, Nellie, Asbury, and Eloise, always called Sweetie. My maternal grandmother was the only one of the five who married and left the family place for the city 125 miles down the river.

As a child I loved going “up the country” as my grandmother, Bebe, described the summer pilgrimage to her homeplace. Heading west from the fall line the trees grew taller, greener, and denser. The road wound through fields of high July corn like a part through a heavy head of coarse, thick hair. The earth grew a deeper and darker brick red with each mile through the Piedmont. Soon the roadway began the slow ascent up into the mountains. We had to swallow frequently as our ears began popping from the increasingly higher altitude.

In mid-afternoon we arrived at our destination. The languor of the July day had settled upon the tiny hamlet on the banks of the historic river. No soul was stirring, or a breeze wafting, the only sound was the gentle squeaking of a glider spring on a nearby porch. The air was hot, and the humidity hung heavily in the afternoon sun. Even the poplar trees were exhausted from the sweltering heat letting their branches droop.

My aunts and uncles greeted us with welcoming hugs and glasses of cool water from the spring located down the hill from the house. The grownups sat on the roomy front porch and I asked if I could go down to the spring. As long as I took an empty bucket to fill was the reply.

Keeping a supply of spring water was essential for the spigot water was nonpotable and was only used after boiling. The spring had provided all the necessary day-to-day water for years and would continue to do for the next 50 years.

I kicked off my sandals, and ran across the sunny side yard, through the big leaf hydrangea bushes bursting with buds, to the path that led to the spring. Descending into the green glade it was suddenly dark and cool with a heady, wet smell. I loved this chore and even today I can recall my bare feet on the cool, dark earth, tamped down by the hundreds of other feet that had fetched water from the spring. The path was steep and the further I went the cooler and damper it became. I arrived at the large stone springbox and set my bucket on the top of the structure. I straddled the spigot where the refreshing, clear water spurted from the box. I carefully placed the enameled bucket in position and watched as the rushing water spilled into the container and as soon as it was at the top I grabbed the handle and turned to go back up the hill. But first I let the water run over my bare toes experiencing the delight of the cool water. The ascent was difficult with my damp feet slipping on the earthen path. As I emerged from the spring path, through the hydrangea bushes, the unblinking sun was bearing down on me and I ran hurriedly to make my delivery to the kitchen.

“Well, you didn’t spill much, Miss Ella”, my Aunt Eloise aka Sweetie said as I put the heavy pail on the table. I was told to go lie down for a while to cool off but I would be needed shortly to set the table for supper. Of course I fell sound asleep and was startled when my grandmother called to me to come set the table.

I loved setting the large round table in the dining room.The heavy damask cloth on the table was first covered with placemats then salt and pepper shakers, the large cut glass sugar bowl and creamer, and a cruet filled with vinegar were placed in the middle. Silverware was the flower encrusted Stieff rose pattern quite popular with Victorian era brides.

As the family gathered around the table my Aunt brought in serving dishes filled with fried chicken, creamed yellow squash, string beans cooked with potatoes, sliced tomatoes, onions, and always homemade biscuits or yeast rolls. This was a standard main meal for summertime eating with the vegetables all grown by Uncle Asbury in his large garden. The highlight of the summer was the arrival of fresh corn, long slender ears of pale white kernels that still makes my mouth water nearly 70 years later.

After helping to clear the dishes and being shooed out of the kitchen by Bebe and my aunts I retreated to the front porch. There in the dark sat great-uncles Asbury, Roy and my grandfather, Pippy, gently rocking while enjoying after dinner smokes.

It was velvety dark in the mountains. The light of the stars and the flash of fireflies punctuated the air. The night was heavy with the lush smell of the mountains mixed with the sulphurous, acrid, odor of the paper mill. The mill, located below the house on the river, was lit with yellow lights. In my imagination the mill looked like a large river boat lit from bow to stern anchored on the river.

“Sit down, Sis,” said my grandfather “It’s nice and cool out here. We are going to take the dogs for a walk in a while. Your grandmother will be out here in a few minutes and I expect she, Nell and Sweetie will need to set a spell and cool off some.”

As my uncles and grandfather took the final drag of their smokes they rose up and called the dogs that had been sitting in the side yard. “C’mon boys let’s go for a little round before bed,” said my grandfather. The three men and two dogs walked slowly down the front walk and down the steps to the gravel driveway. I waved good-by for I knew they would be a while, stopping to chat with others out for a cool stroll or the men up at Burke’s garage hanging out on a summer’s night.

The mountain mist was rolling in and I was getting tired. It had been a long day and I was ready for bed. Adventures awaited me and I had to be up early.

I slept in my great-grandmother’s large bedroom in an old metal bed under a window. I could lie in bed and look right out the window to the river below and of course the paper mill. I fell asleep imagining the paper mill was a giant ship on the ocean that was carrying me away to numerous adventures. I remember awakening later in the night as my grandmother slipped into bed. “Go back to sleep, it is late and we have a busy day tomorrow,” she said. I snuggled down in the bed and quickly fell back into a much needed sleep in preparation for any new adventures awaiting.


Where in Belfast?
Photos by Audrey M. Deveney

In February we had this quiz to test your powers of observation. Here are the answers.

Up over Chase’s Daily
The Chapel at Grove Cemetery
The White House B & B
Coal shed removed from Front St

Thoughts for the Day

Each day is an invitation to see the world in a new way, to watch it bloom before our eyes like a flower in time-lapse photography, to feel the curvature of the earth in our bodies, and to become aware that we live on the edge of a spinning ball where anything can happen.
~MARV AND NANCY HILES

At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.
~JEAN HOUSTON

I have decided to stick to love… Hate is too great a burden to bear.
~REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: March 28, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXV

March Memories
Lee Graham

Early March sun is deceptive. If you stand in the southwest corner and turn your face upward, the warmth permeates your skin, warming to the core. Take a few steps into the dooryard and the wind gusting across the snow-covered field shatters your warmth and your hopes. But spring will come and the maple trees will be among the early greeters.

Sap, as attracted to the sun as you are, flows up the maples to feed the eventual emergence of leaves. Thirsty chickadees and red squirrels sip a drop or two from a broken branch and delight in its sweetness. Small boys and grown women do the same. Perhaps ancients gathered sap as an alterative to the water winter had frozen solid and discovered how heat made it sweeter. For my children, it was the ritual announcing spring.

Storms had been heavy that year – forty or forty-five years ago: eighteen, twenty-six, thirty inches at a time. The neighbor’s barn collapsed under the weight. The kids took their sleds to the top of the toolshed roof and slid down a track almost to the pond. Walking anywhere in the woods required snowshoes and even then, it was a struggle. Without them, you’d sink to your thighs. March sun though melts the surface during the day. The cold night air transforms it to a heavy crust. In the morning, you can walk anywhere! Early settlers wrote of waiting until March to move to their newly acquired land up in Maine. They hauled their belonging on wooden sleds, traveling on the colder days. We, too, used the March crust to find and tap the maples up above the house.

The kids are excited. We pack the spiles, buckets, a drill, a hammer, my snowshoes and the two-year-old on a sled. I strap the baby in her Snugglie, and with the older ones hike up the old woods’ road. The crust, solid enough this early March morning, easily supports our weight; the sun’s rays are warm on our faces. I figure if the crust gives, I can put on my snowshoes and haul the kids the rest of the way.

Tapping a tree takes a bit of work: Drill a hole on the south side that gets the most sun, pound in the spile, hang a bucket or an old milk jug on the spile’s hook, and go on to the next maple. The sap of the sugar maples is sweetest, but red maples produce sap. If a tree is large enough, it can take two or three taps. The first tap is the most exciting. I drill the hole and the kids take turns pounding in the spile. We hang a bucket and immediately hear the plink-plink of the sap hitting the pail. Mittens fly off and hands reach in for the first taste of the sweet drops.

We move along, tapping a dozen or so trees before the baby wakes up and everyone is suddenly exhausted and starving. I hand out the mushed up peanut butter sandwiches, share the jug of tepid water I’ve carried in my pack, and let the baby nurse for a few minutes.

The sled, now empty of buckets, suggests a speedy ride home for the older ones. The sun has softened the snow a bit, so they cannot go too fast. I strap on my snowshoes, put the drill and hammer in my pack, and trudge along, knowing most of us will be ready for a nap by the time we get home. I muse about maybe sitting in the sunny, south-facing window and reading for a few minutes.

Next morning we hike back up with two sleds: one for the kids and one with five-gallon pails for gathering sap. This seems less like fun to the kids and today they grumble and bicker. Many days are still too cold or too cloudy for the sap to run. Much as I want it to be spring, I am not unhappy to take a day or two off. By week’s end though, we have stockpiled enough sap to make a few pints of syrup.

We’ve made a crude outdoor stove from half of an old oil barrel and found a large flat pan to fit on top. Once the fire is roaring, I fill the pan with the watery sap. It takes hours – feeding the fire, pouring in more sap – forty gallons to make one gallon of syrup. Clouds of steam fill the air with sweetness. The older kids, mesmerized at first by the fire and the steam, lose interest and go off to build a snow-crust fort. I alternate between tending the equally demanding fire and the baby napping in the house. By suppertime, the sap is still not boiled down enough, but this is the tricky part. Let it go too long and it will burn up in seconds.

By seven, it’s reduced enough to fit into my largest canning kettle and I set it on the kitchen stove to finish. With the promise of pancakes and syrup for breakfast, everyone else goes to bed without a fuss. The canning jars and lids are clean and ready. I’m alone in the strangely quiet kitchen, watching, waiting.

Most of the time, I cherish any minute I have alone. The first hour or so, I read, check the thermometer regularly, and breathe in the sweet steam. By 10:00, I yawn, pace around, notice the tiny rivulets of sticky moisture on the walls. Knowing I’ll have to wash everything down in the morning heightens my exhaustion. I check the thermometer again – still not done! Now I am fighting sleep, but letting it burn would disappoint everyone, especially me. By 1:00 a.m. the wallpaper is peeling back in the upper corners, and I’m so tired I’m crying (softly-not to wake anyone) as I pour the finished syrup into two, pint jars and crawl into bed.

At 5:30 a.m. they are all up, excited, and starving. Bleary-eyed, I drop circles of batter on the griddle – one starter pancake per child. “Me first,” “Me second.” “I want to pour my own syrup.” Soon the thick, sweet syrup floods the plates and dribbles down chins.

Next March the warm sun will tempt us. They remember only the taste of the sweet syrup and the fun of sliding down the hill!

Lee Graham is a member of Senior College and the Belfast Garden Club who grows asparagus on her farm in Maine.


Photos by Audrey Deveney


Ask Me How I Am
Heather Heath Reed

If you ask me how I am,
you won’t get a straight answer.

I’m fine, I’m not so fine.
I keep busy. I’m bored.

I have projects up the wahzoo,
but no motivation to start them.

I write a line or two,
then lose my train of thought.

If I could wake up to a sun-filled room,
there’s a good chance it’d be a good day.

Lately, though, it’s been snowing and grey,
and I just want to lie in bed and sleep.

But today I wake to blinding sunlight,
and all I want is to be outdoors.

I want to feel the sun almost sting my face.
I want to swing my arms and stomp my feet,

Feel my body come alive again,
like it means to enjoy this day to the fullest.

So, ask me again how I am,
and I’ll tell you straight.

I’m fine. I feel grateful,
I feel my spirit rising.

I hear sparrows and finches
warbling in the trees.

I see frozen puddles
melting into slippery pools of ice water.

The sky is the bluest I’ve seen in ages,
and I think about bluebells and iris

And the promise of spring hovering nearby
like a sunset all lit up along the river.

Heather is retired and lives in Westport, MA. She is an avid reader, gardener, and walker. She enjoys writing poetry and is a longtime member of the Westport Poetry Group. In normal times Heather is a devoted volunteer at her library, which has been closed during the pandemic. Recently, she has been volunteering at the Council on Aging calling seniors to assist with vaccinations. She is a member of Belfast Senior College and has enjoyed several online courses this year.


Masks Have Changed Our Lives in Many Ways

Liz Vezina

Masks save lives. I wouldn’t dream of entering a grocery store, the post office, or anywhere else I might go – if indeed I did go anywhere else – without donning one. Early on in the pandemic, I was a warrior against the unmasked, silently berating those who passed by as I grabbed a block of cheese or a bag of rice, calling store managers to complain, researching local protocol for reporting errant businesses, should it come to that. Masks had rapidly come to symbolize an “us vs. them” political divide and fueled by Covid anxiety, I was guilty of demonizing many of my fellow Mainers while attempting to interact as always with those I perceived as being on my own team.

Masks have changed my life in other ways, as well. As a senior with hearing loss living in Maine, going out into the world this winter involved a cat’s cradle level of entanglement: Earloops over or under eyeglass arms? Best way to keep behind-the-ear hearing aids in place? Tuck everything in under the knitted hat? Don’t lose those earrings!

Beyond minor annoyances, masks have affected my life in a more profound way, making those chance encounters that often brighten my day nearly impossible. Raised in a secular Jewish tradition, I try to incorporate Judaism’s concept of “tikkun olam” into my daily life. Usually defined as “repair the world” and applied to such weighty concepts as social justice, my interpretation encompasses even those small acts of kindness that may elicit a smile and add a tiny bit of joy to the world. Moreover, one friendly gesture often leads to another directed back at us, lightening our own burdens for a few moments.

I like to believe that my eyes convey my smile to the little girl in the shopping cart, but do they? And what of my words? Were they spoken loudly enough to convey my appreciation to the helpful guy at the fish counter? I recall the day I ran into my manicurist near the potato bins. Realizing that I didn’t recognize her, she surreptitiously lowered her mask. “It’s me, Heather!” She quickly remasked and initiated a friendly chat. Heather happens to be what some call a “low talker,” challenging to hear even back in pre-Covid days as she worked on my toes. Unable to follow what she was saying, I simply nodded and wrapped things up with a “hope to see you soon!” Hugs were out of the question.

I tell myself it’s been a small price to pay, this loss of everyday affirmations. It pales when compared to the long year away from our grandkids as they enter and outgrow new stages, develop new obsessions, grow inches. But the other day, along my walk, as I strained to understand a new neighborhood acquaintance without benefit of lipreading and minus facial expressions, I spent the rest of my solo walk thinking how lovely it will be to get back to daily life unmasked and begin to repair the world, face-to-face once more.

A Bostonian by birth and lifelong Massachusetts resident, upon retirement in 2016 following a long career as a librarian, Liz Vezina moved with her husband to their lake house in St. Albans. She loves their leisurely lifestyle and treasures having time to read, write, participate in multiple book clubs, volunteer for their local library, and take Maine Senior College classes!


Thought for the Day

You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.
~Pablo Neruda

You might as well answer the door, my child, the truth is furiously knocking.
~Lucille Clifton

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: February 3, 2021

Corona Chronicles

The New Normal , courtesy of Terry Black

The People?
Kristin M. Frangoulis

A frozen pond
Six empty chairs
Spaced apart
Fire in the snow
Did Christmas happen?
Did the wise men come?
Is there a new year?
A celebration?
Champagne flutes set on a tray
The bottle open
But where are the people
Smiles
Hugs
Kisses?
Hidden

Kristin Frangoulis writes and paints in Belfast. She lives with her husband, George and several cats. She also hosts WBFY radio show, “Poetry By The Bay,” and co-hosts the TV show, “Good Morning Belfast” with her husband.


Today it is snowing and sleeting so I will be staying home, making soup, reading, and keeping warm. I had planned a drive around Belfast to see if I were able to identify the sites in the photographs recently received from frequent Chronicle contributor, artist Audrey Devany. On first seeing them I thought I knew precisely where each was located but my husband informed me I was altogether wrong!

See if you are able to identify the buildings pictured in Audrey’s photographs.

Nancy Perkins


Where in Belfast?
Photos by Audrey M. Deveney

May have been removed

No longer there


Maximum Change
by Leslie Woods

Maximalism only intruded into my work when I kept adding to fix an error, followed by saying, “You screwed up. Go back.” As a painter of semi-abstract figures performing sports, who was brought to a hard stop in 2020, maximalism became my stumbling first step back.

In 2020 we all moan over endless news of increasing illness and death, homelessness and food boxes. The only other topic is the election which generates more fright. Some listen to music we loved decades ago and attempt the old dances while breathing hard in masks. Back then we knew nothing.

My husband and I, like most of you, lived a normal, decent life, raised protest signs and marched. We supported schools, concerts and institutions that benefit society. I buried my long ago art until John said, “I’m taking a drawing class with Susan Tobey White in Belfast. Want to come?”

He learned to talk about composition and color, and welded farming gear into sculptures. In Russell Kahn’s adult ed pottery classes, John’s work was occasionally brilliant. Yet I became the serious artist and he hauled boxes of my paintings to shows, measured placements and ate hummus dip at openings. Then in February, 2020, after a massive stroke, he died.

A close cousin died of cancer in March. A good neighbor died of an aneurysm in April. A best friend spent the summer dying of cancer and finished the job by October. Maximalism.

My husband saved everything in our barns until dangerously crowded. I was an enabler, hoarding for sculptures we designed together. Then after his death I frequented the recycling center and Goodwill. Even after moving my studio from an upstairs bedroom to easy access downstairs, I created nothing; shuffled papers and sharpened pencils and drew nothing; tore rags and sorted brushes and painted nothing. The function of any animal is to reproduce itself, and humans have been massively successful. But then what? Isn’t making art just filling time?

Or is what we create also a connection to other people, that social thing we have lost so much in 2020? Seven months after John’s death, I took a painting to River Arts gallery in Damariscotta and mentioned that I hadn’t been able to do any new work. A photographer waited outside to tell me that his wife had died five years ago, but her support of his work led to his survival through his art. He was giving me hope.

Then UMVA offered maximalism, a concept completely removed from my work and requiring a concentration that morphed into meditation. In my usual way, I researched and sketched until an image burst into consciousness with me never suspecting that conscious thought would disappear under rhythm and pattern. I use acrylics which is a gift in maximalism because of acrylic’s #1 rule: paint over it. I don’t know how maximalism might affect my future work and I don’t care. I am beginning. In 2020 it simply may be enough to organize chaos into design or even to give somebody else a path to hope.

Leslie Woods is an artist who lives in Montville. Leslie Woods Art


An Argument Against Cremation
Jim Owen

Human skulls reside
in Harvard’s museum
of natural history,
witnesses to evolution,
the skulls are dark or yellow,
with plenty of room
for brains,
more than birds,
less than whales,
empty eye sockets
scan every visitor.

Here is Homo habilis,
known for making tools,
also Homo erectus,
a much older version of us,
the first Homo to cook.

Here is Homo sapiens,
our many greats grandmother,
more recent than habilis,
she probably knew
some Neanderthals,
all gone,
just a memory in our genes,
even now, one of their skulls is
right next to hers.

Maybe she was a mother,
laughing with her children,
running down game
as needed,
sharing food gathering,
enjoying music under the stars,
hugging her man, and
telling her children
bedtime stories.

I am sure
it never occurred
to her, that her head
would be displayed
in a museum,
carefully studied,
at rest so far from her children.

Jim Owen is inspired by the poetry of Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, Richard Blanco, E.B. White, Japanese Haiku and many others. A member of The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry in Belfast, Jim’s poems have been published in the Foreign Service Journal, several online journals, the Maine Island Trail Association’s Tales of the Trail blog, and a booklet published by The Wheelbarrow School of Poetry. One of his pandemic poems is on the front door of the Belfast Free Library. A member of the Board of Directors of Senior College Belfast, Jim was regional manager and counselor for an Employee Assistance Program based in Maine.


Thought for the Day

While the news often features the worst of humanity, there are a billion acts of human kindness every hour of every day! Take another breath and sense this truth.

Jack Kornfield

Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: January 24, 2021

Corona Chronicles

A Message from our President

Nearly a month into the new year and we are still dealing with this insidious pandemic, awaiting our vaccines, and wondering when this plague shall pass. I am anticipating great joy when I can once again see my family, have lunch with friends, and welcome visitors to my house. I have learned some very important lessons from almost a year of isolation. The main one being there is absolutely nothing that replaces the pleasure I derive from human contact of all kinds. I long to visit the grocery store, chat with fellow shoppers, run into a shop and pick up a needed item, and visit the library meandering through the stacks. I have missed going to the Colonial and the Strand to see movies with fellow cinephiles, worshipping with friends at St. Margaret’s on Sundays, driving a few hours to discover a new Maine attraction or eatery, and just the feeling of freedom which I feel I have lost. Finally, l really miss those Thursday classes at the Hutch with coffee and cookies, and so many friendly faces! But I know it all will return and hopefully before the end of 2021.

When we started the Chronicles we had no idea it would be enjoyed by so many and we are pleased that you are still contributing. We will continue sending it out as long as you send us your essays, reviews, drawings, paintings, photographs, and stories. It is a wonderful way to share with others and to stay in touch with Senior College friends and acquaintances. So write a review, snap a picture from your window, send us a great recipe you have enjoyed, or just a few sentences on how your time is spent. We all want to know about one another!

We recently received an excellent suggestion from a member that inviting former instructors to present updates on their course contents would make for interesting reading. We have written to a number of individuals who have taught in the past and we are looking forward to receiving their contributions to share with you.

In addition, consider joining us on Zoom. There are openings in a number of classes and soon we will be writing about upcoming opportunities in the Spring. In the meantime stay safe, healthy, and warm!

Nancy Perkins


Photographs by Jim Kosinski who teaches photography at Senior College


Salar de Uyuni

Icy Cold and Salty
by Brenda Smith

As I stepped onto the sparkling crystalline crust of this remarkable geologic formation, it was impossible to believe that the hard white surface was anything but frozen solid ice. But it wasn’t. It was salt. It covered an ancient brine pool, which in prehistoric times had been an immense lake. From the moment I learned the Salar de Uyuni existed, 340 miles south of my home in La Paz, Bolivia, I set my sights on seeing this natural wonder for myself. Four of my daring friends from the American embassy signed on to make the rugged trip with me.

Our pre-trip research revealed the Salar was the largest salt flat in the world, with a polygonal quilted surface covering 4,000 square miles. (The size of the big island of Hawaii) Ten billion tons of salt are stored in its crust and the submerged brine holds the world’s richest untapped source of lithium. Uyuni, by contrast, was a miniscule village, barely worthy of a dot on the map, in the southwest corner of Bolivia’s Altiplano.

The dry season, when the dirt roadways would be in their most passable condition, was the only practical time to attempt this journey. Unfortunately dry season coincided with the winter months. On the 12,000 foot high plains, daytime temperatures were pleasantly tolerable with warm clothing, but after sunset they quickly plummeted below freezing.

Though we followed the country’s major north to south “highway,” the only other vehicles we encountered were heavy duty transport trucks. For two days each way we bumped and bounced over a route that carried us across hard-packed dirt, ideal for kicking up billowing dust clouds, to narrow, deeply rutted channels requiring skillful navigation. Wherever the roadway became impassable, we followed the truckers’ ad hoc detours into the encroaching desert, avoiding 20 foot high giant cactus while weaving through quivering tussocks of puna grass.

For our two 4-wheel drive jeeps, the toughest challenge was crossing the eight streams that submerged the roadway under anywhere from a few inches to three feet of swift moving water. On the more dicey crossings we waited until a truck arrived to help us plot a safe route through the water. One veteran driver insisted the key to a successful crossing was to scout the route, then hit the gas and not let up until you reached dry ground on the far side. His wisdom served us well as we sloshed through the current from one bank to the other.

Uyuni’s few small buildings appeared on the horizon late in the afternoon of our second day. We decided to set up camp out on the salt flats, to put some distance between us and the settlement’s locals whose unwelcome scowls discouraged us from camping too close to their casitas. Mindful that the night wind tearing across the endless open space of the Salar would be wicked, we positioned our jeeps in a “V” formation, a windbreak of sorts, and set up our tents inside its shelter. Hot soup with bread, washed down with hot tea gave our bodies a head start on fending off the bitter coldness. Exhausted by two hard days of jouncing over washboard roadways, we slept snuggly in our down sleeping bags.

The next morning intensely bright sunshine shone through the nylon walls of our tents waking us to a spectacular day. The wind had calmed to a refreshing breeze and the cloudless sky was a brilliant sapphire blue. We were eager to explore the salt flats. Not far from our camp we noticed a cholita and her children. All around them were three foot tall white cone shaped piles of salt.

She explained that local workers “mined” the salt, by scraping surface layers into piles for exporting to buyers both in Bolivia and beyond. We also learned from her that just a short distance beyond where we camped was the track used by truckers hauling goods to villages further southwest and into Chile. The flat level surface of the Salar was a trucker’s dream as they could cover the 90 miles across the salt in a quarter of the time that circling the lake on dirt roads would take.

When she discovered we were planning to drive out into the middle of the Salar, she wagged a short leathery finger at us, vehemently insisting that we stay on the track. She warned the crust varied dramatically in thickness, and the brine beneath in some places was as much as 430 feet deep. When she pointed at our eyes, I donned the second pair of sunglasses we had been warned to bring as the sun’s reflection off the sparkling salt crystals had been known to cause blindness and permanent eye damage to those who ignored this precaution.

By mid-morning we were speeding along a barely discernible track leaving the shore line far behind in the distance. Soon the only thing ahead of us was a flat scene of nothing but two colors: blue above, white below. After an hour we stopped to take pictures. I wandered away from the group and stood transfixed. I felt like I had stepped into a two dimensional world.

There was nothing except infinite blue and white. There was no sense of depth. Nothing moved. I took two steps forward but the scene ahead of me was exactly the same. There was no sense of time passing. No right or wrong, no ugly or beautiful, no good or bad, just rich deep blue and pure white. There were no sounds, no words. I wanted to swallow the solitude and breathe in the peace of where I was. There was only the moment in which I existed. Alone.

Gradually my feeling of contentment faded. What if this was all that ever existed? What if nothing ever changed? Everything frozen forever with nothing but blue and white. Could this be what hell is? Suddenly I wanted to run from here, to escape the sensory deprivation that unsettled me to my core.

I turned and in doing so, with great relief, re-entered our world of four dimensions. As I dashed back to where my friends were gathered by our jeeps, I felt euphoric to hear their sweet voices and sense myself drawing closer to them. We drove back to a small island we had passed earlier on, where a few tall cactus plants somehow were thriving in the middle of this barren environment. We spread a blanket on the surface of salt, which we constantly had to remind ourselves not to call ice, and prepared our picnic sandwiches. As much as we were awed by the Salar’s unique physical characteristics, we had all sensed and were a bit unnerved by the mystical otherworldly aura that pervaded the surrounding landscape.

Though we had intended to camp another night at the edge of the Salar we came to a unanimous decision to start the journey back toward our own warm beds in La Paz that afternoon. Pleased with our resolve to leave the Salar in the rear view mirror, we turned the jeeps around and headed north.

Brenda lived in Bolivia for four years while working for the U.S. Agency for International Development. At that time there were only two paved roads in the country, so most of the exploring that she did was on dirt roads in her trusty little Suzuki Jeep.


Guilt free good-for-you Brownies
Janet Williams

After indulging on rich foods over the holidays, are you looking for a delicious little treat that is good for you and guilt free? Yes, such a thing does exist – and don’t be put off by the black beans, no one will guess they are in there.

15 oz black beans, drained and rinsed
2 ripe bananas
1/3 C agave nectar, honey, molasses, or maple syrup (or any combination thereof)
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 C oats
Chocolate chips, chopped dry fruit, chopped crystalized ginger

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 8″x8″ pan and set aside.

Combine all ingredients, except oats, in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, scraping sides as needed.

Stir in the oats, and as much as you like of chocolate chips, fruit or ginger. Pour batter into the pan.

Bake approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing.

If you find these brownies are too soft or too fudgey, add another 1/4 C oats or some flour.

Bon appetit!


Thought for the Day

What we have before us are some breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems.

John W. Gardener
Courtesy of Gratefulness.org

Corona Chronicles: December 19, 2020

Happy Holidays!

We’ll be home at home for Christmas
Covid 19 will keep us in
There won’t be family gatherings
Or the sounds of a merry din.

We will raise a little tree
Decorated with our favorite things.
We’ll deck the halls with greens
And our angels will spread their wings.

It really won’t seem like Christmas
Without all of our family here.
But we will still try and celebrate
And raise a glass of holiday cheer.

Christmas Eve we’ll light the candles
A taper for each family member!
Then the house will shine quite bright
In the midst of a cold December.

As we listen to the carols
And enjoy a small repast
We will pray the threat of Covid
Will be over soon, at last!

For this year of 2020
Will be one we won’t forget.
And we hope that 2021
Shall be the best year yet!

Nancy Perkins


Watercolors by Audrey Deveney


Retreat To Little River
Gerald George

Turn the news off! Nerves keep screaming “stop!”
I beg an hour away in a place that’s safe.

Little River, I take my quest to you:
speak to me of unprecedented peace.

You trickle to the agitated bay,
but the rest lies quietly behind a dam,

making a spacious pond of gentle water,
its surface broken only by skips of wind.

You lie so still as if the nodding trees
that green your shoreline wave the world away

and make me feel relieved. O would that you
could do that now, and for more lives than mine.

Gerald George is a former winner of a poetry prize from the Maine Senior College Network, has published two books of poetry, and authored a play produced in the 2008 Maine Short-Play Festival. He and his wife Carol are retired in Belfast, and, before the covid virus, regularly attended classes in the Belfast Senior College. May that day come again!


Watercolors by Audrey Deveney


The Two Wisemen and One Wise Woman!

Corona Chronicles: August 15, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.


Yankee Child in Virginia
Leslie Woods

I hold a particular prejudice and this past March I visited North Carolina and examined this feeling. You see, when I hear a white man’s voice with a southern accent, the hackles on the back of my neck prick and my body stiffens as I wait to learn what sort of person he will be. I don’t like this feeling but I do know it lies in these snippets of my past.

Family

My ancestors on both parents’ sides arrived in Maine in the 1630s and all of my family were born and raised in New England. Maybe my mother had always wanted change, but after my father died when I was two, she moved us to Richmond, Virginia. Aunt A, an old friend with four daughters had moved there and Mom had me and my six year old sister so, except for underwear, I never needed new clothes until I was 11.

Every summer my maternal grandmother drove to Virginia to carry my sister and me north. She stopped in New York City to take us to shows and one time Radio City Music Hall had a rerun of Showboat. I adored the dancers but immediately asked her who sang about the river. She said, “That’s Paul Robeson. I have an album of his at the farm.” Years later, after an eye operation, my husband rented movies for me including Showboat. I complained that the video was in black and white and he said it came that way. I said, “That’s not possible. When Paul Robeson sang, that movie was in color.”

Gram owned a small farm in New Hampshire for summers where I helped with the gardens and lambs. We heard family stories like Gram learning to play piano from a woman who traded lessons for medical services from my great grandfather. Opening their door in the morning, my grandmother said they never knew what they’d find—chickens, vegetables or a hod of clams—poor white people paying for the doctor.

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: August 15, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: August 4, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.


Synchronicity
Brenda Smith

The orange subway train clattered down the tracks into the station. As the doors slid open, a handful of people quickly exited. I strode into the half empty car and plopped down in one of the unoccupied bench seats just beyond the doorway. I kept my head lowered so not to engage in sight or sound with any of the other commuters already onboard. I did not want to invade their space, nor have them invade mine. Keep the distance. That’s the rule.

The train lurched forward heading for the next stop a couple of minutes away. I settled in and checked my cellphone for new messages. At the far end of the car a falling backpack thudded on the floor disrupting the silence. I shot a quick glance in that direction. I didn’t see any out of place backpacks, but my eyes caught the bright blue eyes of a young man staring intensely, directly at me. Startled by this unexpected connection, in the same instant we looked away from each other.

Since it was early afternoon, I speculated he might be a graduate student. He was comfortably attired in tan khakis and a navy blue polo shirt. His hair was a wavy light brown, not too long and a bit tousled. I tried to recall other features of his face, but the brilliance of those blues eyes dominated my memory.

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: August 4, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: July 25, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.


Remembrances
Nancy Perkins

Sitting at my desk I occasionally look up to see the beauty of the July garden. Peonies dominate the green backdrop of trees and nature looks elegantly decked out in summer splendor. But I am not thinking of my garden or the many chores waiting, rather I am remembering countless past summers spent in my home state of Virginia, the Old Dominion. For years I would spend summers in Richmond with my grandparents. Richmond in the 1950’s was a sleepy, Southern capital dominated by tobacco companies, state bank headquarters, and government. Gracious, tree-lined avenues lined with crepe Myrtle trees and grand oaks dominated the residential west end, home to the descendants of FFV’s (First Families of Virginia). Magnificent Monument Avenue stretched five miles from the downtown of the city to Henrico County. Five statues graced this avenue, dedicated during the Jim Crow era honoring the heroes of the Confederacy (Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Jeb Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and Matthew Fontaine Maury). A sixth statue, erected in 1996, is dedicated to native son, tennis great, Arthur Ashe. The Battle Abbey, the White House of the Confederacy, and the Valentine museum all paid homage to the mythical Lost Cause of the Confederate defeat. These monuments and museums loom large in my memory as part of my summer vacations.

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: July 25, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: July 2, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.


Barbara Klie’s photograph from Jim Kosinski’s photography class

Wicked Good Maine
The Misunderstood Dandelion

For a narrow window of less than 2 weeks each spring the fields of rural Maine turn a bright cheerful yellow with millions of dandelion blossoms. Renowned American naturalist John Burroughs described the phenomena by writing, “The dandelion copies in gold upon the green expanse, the stars of the midnight sky.”

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: July 2, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: June 21, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.

Protests, plague, and presidential politics pretty much dominate the airwaves as the summer season begins. It has been a tumultuous spring and as a young Black friend wrote “sometimes I just start crying from nowhere.” I understand what she says for the events in this country have brought many of us to tears. Yet we have learned to seek solace from books, film, cooking, sailing, gardening, and other pursuits that transport our minds to better places. I have deeply appreciated the ideas, thoughts, poetry, and art that transport us in these uncertain times that so many of you have shared. I look forward to receiving more items for the Chronicle. Email your contribution to me at nanella133@gmail.com. Thank you and stay safe.

Nancy Perkins

It goes without saying that any statements made are those of the author and are not attributable to Senior College Belfast.


Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: June 21, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: June 5, 2020

We began the Corona Chronicles to keep the membership of Senior College connected and it has been gratifying to discover that it has connected us during this period of physical and social distancing. The Chronicles is brought to you by SC member Janet Williams, who for years has published the monthly Senior College newsletter. Janet dubbed this addenda to the newsletter the Corona Chronicles and prepares and distributes it. Thank you Janet Williams!

We continue to receive interesting comments and stories from so many members. Pam Chase wrote: I met up with a friend to walk down by the boathouse recently, maintaining social distancing between ourselves and others. As we parted I said “Let’s do what I do when I talk with a grandchild on the phone. Put your right hand on your left shoulder. Put your left hand on your right shoulder. Now squeeze. That is a hug from me to you.” We were smiling at that. We have to do what we’re able to stay connected.

Suzie Williams has enjoyed a number of movies while physically and socially distancing, including Harriet, Ford vs Ferrari, A Dog’s Journey, Blinded by the Light, Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, and many others.

Patricia Keogh writes: An author that I did not read in my lifetime was Anthony Trollope. One year ago I read my first novel by this author. I fell in love! So I decided to do a little project while being isolated and away from my friends and family. I learned about this guy and his life. I got a list of novels that he wrote and started to go down the list to read them. Right now I am on The Warden (1855), one of his earliest novels. I have The Duke’s Children waiting in my queue. I love this English period from the early 1800’s up to the end of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1901. The inequities in society, the unjust and unfair life experience of the poor contrasted with the rich and the landed gentry plus those to the manor born creates a tension that makes his books so interesting. Anthony Trollope is my Covid 19 buddy and I am delighted to have made his acquaintance!

From poetry, paintings, essays, and just brief jottings we have managed to reach out and touch one another during this continued period of isolation. If you have something to share please email me at Nanella133@gmail.com

Nancy Perkins


Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: June 5, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: May 30, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.

There is a part of me that has found the past few months to be a period of reflection and a time to organize not only closets, photographs, and books but my thoughts and perceptions about the life I have led. I have spent many hours remembering childhood playmates, high school and college friends, the great group of neighbors we had with growing children, and now the new friends I have made since relocating to Belfast. I am so very gratified that Senior College has provided me with a feeling of fellowship and community and nowhere is this more evident than in the articles, essays, poems, reviews, and ideas generated in this newsletter. Please keep sharing for we are all finding pleasure in one another’s thoughts and writings. We will send issues as we gather content. In the meantime, I hope in the words of the Canadian Prime Minister sent to me by member Tyrone Townsend, “Be Calm. Be Kind. Be Safe!”

Nancy Perkins
Nanella133@gmail.com


Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: May 30, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: May 22, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.

Finally, Spring has arrived and the long days of sheltering in place are brightened by the return of the green world.

When we sent out the first Corona Chronicles we were pleased with the feedback from many of you saying that you enjoyed receiving it, and hoped we would continue compiling pieces from Senior College members. We are happy to forward the second edition with poems and articles about your life in this strange and unique period. We welcome your observations, suggestions and reviews of books, movies, special online sites, interesting recipes, and ways you have kept busy.

Now sit back and enjoy the contributions of fellow members!

Nancy Perkins


Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: May 22, 2020”

Corona Chronicles: May 4, 2020

Until life returns to some semblance of normal, from time to time we will send out the Corona Chronicles. This publication will provide commentary, brief stories, poetry, book and movie suggestions, and ways to make our time at home meaningful and fulfilling. If you have ideas to submit, please contact Nancy Perkins at nanella133@gmail.com.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting for . . . ?

Arlin Larson
Waiting, waiting, waiting – but for what? That is how I have been feeling recently. Senior College starting up was one of the things I was ready for. For the past year I had been re-educating myself about the Mayflower, Pilgrims, and English settlement of North America. It was going to be really fun to teach a class marking the 400th anniversary this year. Then came the pandemic. Maybe we could have a spring session anyway. No. It will have to wait – but until when?

Another expectation was getting back out on the golf course. OK for that to be delayed – the weather isn’t even all that good. Then there was a trip to see our son and family. Same for a trip overseas. When will it be safe? Life is in suspended animation. We might not mind waiting a while for any one thing, but it feels different now that it is everything.

Then beyond waiting, there is worrying. Waiting AND worrying, waiting AND worrying, waiting AND worrying . . . but worrying about what? That feels pretty global too. Getting sick – how sick? Vulnerable friends and family (one member living in a nursing home and another working in one). Where is it safe to go? What precautions? What chances to take? Are family visits OK? People you know well? Businesses and jobs? Financial security? Worries that the waiting only makes worse.

I’m not sure it is a good idea, but I am keeping a mental list of the strikes that are called against me – old, male, conditions similar enough to the ones they call “underlying.” That makes three, and I’m not yet out, but have just learned of a fourth – growing up in a highly polluted city – Los Angeles!

Continue reading “Corona Chronicles: May 4, 2020”

Spring Semester Cancelled

March 12, 2020

Dear Belfast Senior College Member,

It is with great disappointment that we must write to inform you of the cancellation of our Spring Semester. The Covid-19 virus is an extremely serious situation and our membership and faculty consist of an at-risk population. Consequently, we are taking this preemptive step to minimize the potential impact of this virus.

The college will be issuing refunds to everyone who has signed up for a course this Spring. You will soon receive an email or letter explaining how the refunds are to be processed. We ask for your patience and understanding as it is our first time (and hopefully last time!!) issuing refunds on this scale.

This Spring Cancellation is a solution for a very unusual situation. Meanwhile we are in the planning stages of a very active series of summer programs and are already accepting course proposals for the fall. The Board of Directors will be monitoring the situation to find the earliest possible time to reopen classes. As students we are all disappointed, but a special recognition must go to all our instructors. Our instructors put in much time and effort in preparing their courses, and we are working on ways that will allow them to proceed in the near future.

On a related note, we will also have to postpone our UMO Planetarium trip. Stay tuned for when the trip is rescheduled.

We will be keeping you informed as the situation develops. Rest assured your Senior College is still here and will continue to present courses and programs.

Thank you and stay healthy,
Belfast Senior College Board of Directors

Covid-19 Update

Senior College has cancelled its spring and summer terms over Covid-19 concerns. We will keep you informed as the situation develops. Rest assured your Senior College is still here, working behind the scenes, and will present courses and programs as soon as safely possible.