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What Gets Me Through

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Over the years, I've come to realize that this blog is not just my journal. It's my family's journal. 
I don't write as many posts as I used to, and when I'm otherwise occupied, I may not be able to get three posts out in a week (always the goal). I try to make what I do manage to post worth reading: for me, for my family, and for you. There is a good bit of perfectionism going on, because a writer has to satisfy herself first, before opening the door and putting it out for readers. 

When my blog is the only writing I'm able to fit into an overstuffed life, I try to make it good.

Corey and Phoebe returning from the Meat Pile, where he's put a trail camera set to snap away for a few months.
Note Meat Bowl.

I've just finished a cool book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic. It's about kindling one's creative flame. Shila gave it to me for Christmas. I'm savoring it slowly, munching on a few chapters at a session. It's full of underlined passages, exclamation points and notes--signs that its message is sinking in. I hope to pass some of that good fire on in talks and workshops in 2017. 

For years, I've been collecting quotes from writers. One that's sticking with me lately is by poet Grace Paley. 

 "The best training is to read and write, no matter what. Don't live with a lover or a roommate who doesn't respect your work. Don't lie, buy time, borrow to buy time. Write what will stop your breath if you don't write."

Come on, Mether.  You need to walk faster. I am not going anywhere without you, not even home.

Write what will stop your breath if you don't write.  OK. I choose to live in gratitude, because living any other way is not an option. And the thing that's keeping me focusing on joy of late is having Phoebe here with Liam for a month's midwinter idyll, she fresh off 6 months away, first in San Diego and then Panama. Bringing Corey into the mix for ten days kicked it up a couple notches, and carried me through a hard time. I don't like to think of where I'd have been without the kids around to talk with, laugh with, feed,  be fed by, photograph, and watch. 

The hard time included mid-December surgery (nothing scary, but painful) complications (painful, inconvenient, but healing nicely) and, for good measure, a case of shingles, blossoming right through the surgery site (ow ow ow. Ow!).  Happy New Year! You're grounded for a month! Maybe two. Shingles: We'll get back to you on that. We like it here, gonna hang around awhile. Basically, the shingles virus, which has been sleeping in my spinal ganglion since the day John F. Kennedy was shot, woke up and raced to the torn-up tissue at my surgery site to have a great big party. Recognizing the suspicious blisters, we caught it within 40 hours with Acyclovir, or I shudder to think what I'd be going through. Followed up with a vaccination once the vesicles dried up. And now I'm bathing it in apple cider vinegar, and that seems to be getting through. Anyway, it's not fun. If you haven't had a shingles vaccination yet, please get one. The government has just bumped the age limit for getting them down to 50 (it was 60). The vaccine will cut your risk of developing shingles by 51%, and believe me, that's a percentage you want on your side.

As is my wont, I like to wait to see how things are turning out before saying anything. A month in, I can see that things are going to be OK. I'm still weak, still don't feel like hiking, much less running, and I'm struggling to catch my mojo, which has wandered off through the muddy winter woods, walking faster than I can right now. I can see it from here, though! 

Back to better things. I don't mean to fawn on these kids, and I try not to embarrass them. I just mean to celebrate all the good they bring to my life. It makes me happy to get out in nature with them and shoot with my telephoto, as if they were frolicking deer (my usual subjects when I can't get any humans to frolic for me). 

More from that rare sunny New Year's Day walk!

Liam waits in ambush.

Corey and Phoebe pause for a little canoodling in gorgeous sidelight. Liam, bombing the photo.

We all read Reader's Digest. And laughter IS the best medicine. Dr. Liam is in the hizzle! That kid has all his dad's funny, with his own odd twist. I can't get enough of him.

He climbs aboard a tractor, the bigger twin of our old Massey 35. I think about how very different this strapping lad's life would be if this were 1917, or 1957. He might have to know how to run that thing, know all the implements, know what a PTO is, and what needs to be done with it. He might need to know when the hay is ripe, and what the weather will be doing in the coming week. Nowadays, hardly anybody needs to know that stuff, it seems. I still want to know that stuff, still want to hang out with people who know. I wonder if he ever will.

We double back to check something out and little Mr. Set in his Ways Chet Baker wants to head for home instead. So Phoebe carries him.

Good boyfriend: loves family dog

Chet's getting triple the love he usually does.

Love keeps us all going.

Phoebe and Corey spot and catch a New Year's Day bullfrog! Who's ever done that in Ohio? That frog should be sleeping in the mud.

Maybe he wanted some of that love, too. Ah, the blues in this photo, and the reds.

If all this weren't enough, there's music, sweet sweet music. I captured three of Corey's fiddle tunes on video, and I wish I'd recorded all of them. Suspect there will be other chances. I love the communication between Corey and Bill, whose backup guitar style is likely something the old-time music world hasn't seen. But it works so well! The synergy between these two musicians is palpable. Yes, I'm glad to have these videos. I go back and watch them, listen to the music flowing out of those guys, and remember how it feels to have an old-time band in your own kitchen, with the cauliflower sizzling in the pan.

New Year's Walk

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

No matter what the weather, we go out in nature on New Year's Day. Often we'll go birding. Well, we're always birding.

This year we chose a good hike down Dean's Fork. The added attraction is that we can get there from our front door. I love a hike that starts and ends at the front door. It makes me feel like the richest person in the world, to have a good hike I can take that doesn't require a car ride first.

My gosh, Liam's catching his dad, 6'1" and showing no signs of stopping; growing like he was paid to grow. In this photo, he reminds me so much of Bill, but in vanilla--the build, the stance, the tilt of the head, but also the expression. 

Throwback to about 1989, and why he reminds me of his dad:

All hail genetics! Two lanky peas in a pod.

New Year's Day, 2017--It was time to get little Chet Baker out for a good hike!

There were premises to be patrolled, and Offisa Pupp was on duty, crusin' around in the black and white. 

When Phoebe, Corey and Liam are together, they play like the overgrown kids they are. 

Race to the big rock! Chet always gets up there hisself. Sometimes he gets a lift before he even tries.

We have years of photos of the kids and dog on this rock.

It's so natural and easy to add a fourth guy to the mix. 

For at least four years, I've been quietly cussing at several huge wads of Tyvek house wrap that washed down this stream in a flood. Who knows where they came from? But they were clearly here to stay, non-degrading, and defacing a beautiful run for good. Getting that stuff out of there was something I probably couldn't handle myself. And 99% of the time, it's just me and Chet here.

Bill went down to see if there was anything he could do about it.

And Corey was right behind.

Hauling on the heavy plastic, weighted by years of sediment and gravel, it wasn't long before Corey slipped, and one boot went in the creek.

Laughing and completely unfazed despite freezing water, a cold day, and miles to walk home, he took that opportunity to dunk the other boot. Might as well be symmetrically uncomfortable, and more effective at the job.

Never a word of complaint escaped him as he strained and pulled and got that awful stuff out of frigid Dean's Fork.

He had to use his pocketknife to free the last bit, but soon he was hauling it out and up onto the roadbed. I thought of all the surprised crawfish.

And Dean's Fork was a little muddied, but whole again after years. What a gift to give to this place, that gives so much to us! I now smile broadly whenever I walk by this passage, that used to elicit a heavy sigh.

The Eco-Avengers, posing with the carcass of the nasty old Tyvek they have slain. I'll drive down in the old Subaru and lash it to the cargo carrier, bring it home and figure out how to dispose of it when things dry out a bit.

But wait, there was more.  Right in a part of the stream that catches the afternoon skylight so beautifully, there was another skein of Tyvek. There's always more garbage. Corey to the rescue, scrambling down the embankment!

 Phoebs gave him a hand on the last leg. These slopes are steep, all-fours crawling a lot of the time.

We weighted the second wad of Tyvek with rocks, left it by the side of the road for me to pick up later, and continued on our New Year's walk, Corey in cold wet boots, but in heaven too, out in nature with his best gal. I was working on another little portrait of them, trying to work the dash of red into the composition, when Phoebe spotted something!

Two redtails circled over. There are a few reasons why there would be redtails at this particular time and place.

First, this is where a number of area hunters come to dump their deer carcasses over the embankment. We found remains of six deer, one less than a day dead. 

Deplorable, perhaps, but the coy-wolves, bobcats, foxes, opossums and redtails don't think so. It's a de facto feeding station for area predators.

Another reason for the sudden appearance of redtails might be Dear Old Dod, smiling down on a love so true.

Sending a message out of the blue, him and Ida, too. 

Never count magic out of the mix.

Young Love and Sweet Rolls

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Phoebe was 15 and Corey was 17 when they met in Maine, in June 2012, when he was enrolled as a camper and we were teaching for Hog Island Audubon Camp.  Liam and Phoebe were along for the ride, eager to soak up the scene off Maine's coast. When I got a load of Corey Husic in the field I knew that he could have been teaching right then and there. And in fact he was, every step of the way. Insects, birds, plants, amphibians, ecosystems...he's got it all packed into his head, and he moved naturally into a leadership position with the other Corvids (teen campers), teaching all the way.

And in an unsurprising twist of destiny, Corey will be an instructor for Hog Island Audubon Camp in the summer of 2017!

Here he is in the summer of 2012, helping us with dragonfly ID.

Liam was so little, yet still so funny. Here, he's making the whole group laugh (well, Hunter's preoccupied) with his antics.

What's wrong with this photo? Corey and Phoebe aren't arm in arm! See, they don't know they're in love yet.  But I was already taking photos, because I had a feeling it was going to happen. I liked that red-headed boy, a lot. 

And sure enough, he and Phoebe started sending messages back and forth as soon as the session ended.

It was a whole year before we met Corey's wonderful folks, both college professors; Diane now Dean of the School of Natural and Health Sciences at Moravian College; his dad David Professor and Head of Chemistry at Lafayette College and a killer old-time fiddle and guitar player.

 There was a whole year of messaging back and forth before Corey and Phoebe got to see each other in person again--at this brief get-together in Pennsylvania in June 2013.

Corey made his first long interstate solo drive to come here for Phoebe's birthday that same July, and a lovely tradition of Indigo Hill idylls began.

Ah they look so young here!

Baking's always part of the scene. 

So is hiking, birding, botanizing, and rolling around in the joy of Appalachian Ohio, summer or winter.

June 2016. I love this shot. Like a still from a country music video. Pickup trucks, fishin' poles, down by the river, girl you're killin' me in them Daisy Dukes, bla bla bla

January 2017. All bundled up and birding from hayrolls!

Like a complete fool, I went back on the Atkins Diet three days before Corey arrived this January. 

Like many a great notion, that was destined for failure.

What are you gonna do when the house fills up with a scent like that? When each new day brings a fresh baking project with eager kids putting plates in front of you, playing to your every weakness? I ate the rolls. And the shortbread. And the pie. And the dang Chocolate Chip Nutella Lava Bombs. For ten days.

 And I'm  paying for it now, having reverted to my usual fare of dry sticks, nuts and berries, yet still dreaming of the doughy-soft inner core of those cinnamon rolls. I think my scale is busted. Stuck.

Wing Night, January 2017, Bill's grilling artistry in five flavor combos.

They, of course, worked off any excess with fully-revved metabolisms, bouncy vigor and a cheerful video coach named Mr. Millionaire or something like that. A workout like that: not remotely in the cards for me.

But what's not to love about a pair of house bakers, cuddling over fresh shortbreads?

When Corey's here, we do things we wouldn't ordinarily, like convene at Whit's Frozen Custard for a mid-afternoon treat.

It's not all about sugar. Mostly it's about sweetness. The love that flows between these kids lifts us all to a higher place.

January 2017

The whole story of how Corey and Phoebe met, fell in love and have stayed in love through months and miles of separation is something I'm baking for a later date. For now, just a taste of the icing.

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