Sunday, October 30, 2011

Early Snow: Late October Drive to the Cog Railway

We were on a mission.

About six weeks ago, I met a group of sisters at our museum in Maine who are running a marathon in every state. As they visit the states they collect those flattened pennies with engraved images on them. They'd just run a marathon in NH, but had been unable to find the highly elusive penny smashing machine there. They were despondent. (Well, they were a little sad.) I told them I knew there was one at the Cog Railway at the base of Mount Washington. Their schedule was so tight before flying back to California, what with running marathons and all, they wouldn't be able to get there. So I volunteered to save the day!

In my mind, the Cog Railway was just a hop, skip and a jump from Jackson. No problem. We decided to go on Friday and make a morning of it!

Here's the thing: I need new tires. Being the practical sort, I don't usually put these kinds of things off. However, I figured it's almost time to have the snow tires put on, so I’ll just get the new all-weather tires in the spring. I almost called Bucky, our crack mechanic, to switch the tires before we left home. But hey! Who expects snow in October, right?

It snowed overnight Thursday and we got maybe an inch. That's the big lead-up, but nothing bad or even funny happened. I was just, umm, a bit nervous on the windy roads, and had to grab the Jesus! handle a couple of times as Bill rounded some hairy curves. And, by Gawd we gut us some smashed pennies for the ladies in CA!

Most of the pictures below were an experiment in shooting out the windows of a moving car. We didn't want to stop. Bald tires aren't too good when the roads are slick. Just sayin'.

Up Route 302 from Jackson, NH to the base of Mount Washington

Storm Clouds

Headin' on Down the Road


Rough Terrain

Heavy Clouds

From the Cog Railway Base looking Southwest.
Mount Washington is behind me.

Mount Washington

The Mount Washington Hotel

Other Presidential Peaks (Monroe & Pierce?)

Smashed Pennies on New Hampshire Atlas & Gazetteer

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


(Jackson, New Hampshire)

It’s nearing Halloween, and ghosts are everywhere.

Last year, our canine companion Iona-the-Deaf, died on Halloween night. We were here, on vacation, at our family’s place in the mountains of New Hampshire just as we are now. As I came in the door from brunch on Sunday, talking and laughing with our friends, I had a fleeting moment of seeing her big, hairy self at the top of the stairs to greet us.

Iona Apparition

I used to live here, in the Mount Washington Valley. I worked for a now defunct bookstore in North Conway. I loved this place, but my heart was still attached to people in Maine, so I never fully made it my home. I lasted barely a year before I moved back, at this very time of year, in November.
As I was driving from Jackson to North Conway yesterday, a Dan Fogelberg song came on. During that time of my life when I was going back and forth on these roads from here to Maine and Maine to here, I was listening to a lot of Fogelberg. In an instant, all the joy of sharing this new place with my beloved J, who still lived in Maine, and all the sorrow of losing him, flooded over me. I had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the tears. Even the song, “The Sand and the Foam” is about looking back on a younger self and time – with sadness and regret.

Dawn, like an angel, lights on the step
Muting the morning she heralds
Dew on the grass like the tears the night wept
Gone long before the day wears old

Time stills the singing a child holds so dear
And I'm just beginning to hear
Gone are the pathways the child followed home
Gone like the sand and the foam

Pressed in the pages of some aging text
Lies an old lily a-crumbling
Marking a moment of childish respects
Long since betrayed and forgotten

Ghosty Grey's Inn
Grey's Inn was one of those old seasonal hotels that had its heyday in the early 1900s. It was in the center of Jackson Village, and was pulled down sometime in the late '80s, I think. When I lived in this area, it was a tumbling down wreck, but still magnificent! The first time I remember seeing it, J and I were exploring towns in the valley. We were young adults, newly seeing places we'd visited as children; everything was exciting and our discovery. We rounded the turn to go up the road to Black Mountain, saw that great pile of former grandeur and yelled, "Hotel New Hampshire!" It was a book we both loved and had read together. Sharing this vision of Grey's Inn tied J to the town of Jackson in my heart forever - because just a few months later he would be dead.

The past is very important to me. I've studied it, learned from it, painted it. It informs who I am and what I will become, but I don't want to live in it. I have a lovely life, all things considered, and am truly grateful for that. Years of living and loving have layered memories one over another till, like an archaeological site, some treasures of everyday life lie hidden. I hadn't planned to start an excavation of my past on this visit. Like a lot of important finds, though, you just stumble upon them by accident.

I believe all love stories are ultimately ghost stories. The trick is to embrace the ghost when it jumps out at you - and then let it go.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words, and All That

A picture is worth a thousand words, and all that. I prefer visuals. I adore picture books, and images from movies will haunt me in ways that the written word will not. I am capable and even good at following written instructions, but show me once how to do a thing, and I've got it.

If you ask me a question, I can talk with you for ages. (And I'll be sketching images in the air with my hands the whole time.) However, with the exception of poetry, writing is not something I really enjoy. It's a necessary thing, but I don't get excited about writing up a thought and exploring where it will go the way I get excited about making an art idea come to life. I become nearly obsessive till I've seen an artistic idea through.

So with that preamble, I offer you more photographic self-portraits:

Fuzzy Thinking

Holding On

Buried Deep

I'm Not Drowning

Hot & Bothered

Looking For God in All the Wrong Places

Bit of an Imp


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sacre Coeur

It's a weird thing, getting older. I'm really not all that comfortable with it. Not having had children, I didn't have the natural progression into being looked to as The Adult. In my head I'm still in my 20s, but my body is changing in ways that don't make sense to my self-image. My parents are aging, and now I worry about them in the same way they must have been concerned for me when I was out sowing my wild oats. Instead of thinking about what else I might enjoy doing for a living, I'm wondering how I'll ever be able to retire. There are so many things I want to do, and I feel as if time is running out. I do not like this one little bit.

I had a dream the other night that left me feeling a deep gratitude for the relationship I have with my parents mixed with a profound sadness that our time together is finite. For days now, the words "Sacre Coeur" have been floating in and out of my thoughts.

Sacre Coeur, from the long steps leading up to it.

Sacre Coeur

Dad and I are on a mid level platform looking up the hill to Sacre Coeur in Paris. I’m explaining to him all about the levels of the city and trying to get him to see and feel the beauty of the city I love so much. We are making our way up the hill through neighborhoods of artists and regular Parisians toward the church. I am worried about the pain in Dad’s legs. I don’t want him to be in pain but I hope he can make the climb. He’s worried too about his knees, but seems to be doing just fine. We stop at a platform/overlook and look back on the lower part of Paris. I point out landmarks to him while we rest. I am anxious that we make it to the top so he can experience the magnificence of Sacre Coeur, but am also just so happy to be here with him. We are sharing our heritage. We both turn to look up at the church at the same time. I know we are getting closer because I can see only the top of the dome.

The view from Sacre Coeur looking across Paris.

Without even spending much time analyzing this dream, I am struck by the central image of Sacre Coeur, Sacred Heart. The church isn't one of my favorite places in Paris, it's not even in the top 25. I adore the neighborhood, though, which is still peopled with artists and writers. Because of this, it seems such an obvious, bash-over-the-head message to myself that I need to focus on what's really, really at the heart of the sacred for me. I need to focus on what's important, and not waste energy lamenting the signs of my own mortality.

What is most sacred to me? Love is.