Summertime & Driving Barefoot

Old Tracker July 2016

Old Tracker July 2016

There’s that end of summer feeling in the air. The sounds and colors have adjusted themselves, the birds are quieter, and the green of the trees is less intense — a little faded. I hear more crickets, cicadas and katydids than birdsong. I discovered a beautiful green grasshopper on my porch yesterday afternoon. Soon I’ll have a cricket in the house; they always manage  to sneak in. I love this time, I appreciate more the preciousness of each sunny day and clear blue sky. You can sense the fleetingness of it — that it’s nearly over. It’s getting darker earlier. We had a glorious orange moon last week  — a harbinger of autumn’s harvest moon. I know there is still summer left, and with a little luck we’ll enjoy an Indian summer well into September and October. The vibe has changed too. You see more kids around, families are back from vacation, and the schools supplies are bursting off the store shelves.

Black-eyed Susans 2016

Black-eyed Susans 2016

I relish the flowers of late summer: black-eyed Susans, dahlias, phlox, and asters. It’s been a banner summer for roses, which were earlier in the season, and lately for hibiscus the largest I have ever seen. They are the size of Frisbees! I’ve seen some wild flowers I haven’t seen in ages: lady slippers, blue bells, foxglove, oxeye daisies, honeysuckle.

Bluebells & rustic chapel 2016

Bluebells & rustic chapel 2016

I was talking to a friend of mine who lives in Greenland and she sent me a photo of Artic Poppies — I didn’t know there was such a variety and they grow wild there.

Artic Poppies

Artic Poppies 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the cooler air approaches and sandals and flip flops are no longer practical I am really going to miss driving barefoot. This used to make my father crazy. My mother did it, and then with each female of the family acquiring her driver’s license the magnetic attraction of feeling the metal of the pedal was just too great to resist. I’ve noticed over the years that a few of my women friends do it too. Maybe everyone does it, I don’t know, but often they sheepishly admit to it. Why, I wonder. But once everyone cops to it, it’s like we all know the secret handshake — our little club. Driving barefoot, and going barefoot is a part of summertime, the tactical sensual pleasure of feeling things under your feet — the gas or brake pedal, the clutch, cool grass, the sand. As children we went barefoot all the time, nothing bad ever happened. I guess we were lucky. It was nice being free of shoes, it was another layer of the structured part of the year that we could shed.

Sunrise on Lake Placid 2016

Sunrise on Lake Placid 2016

The end of summer makes me nostalgic for past summers, joyful, carefree times. As the season rolls up I would like to think that we can put a drop of summer in our pockets and carry it with us through the ensuing seasons.

Clare Irwin

P.S. Zinnias, and Nepeta (catmint) — banner year for them as well….

Straight to the Heart of Fun

Pink Floyd The Wall

Pink Floyd The Wall

Teaching your teenager just about anything can result in family discord. I remember my mother trying to teach me how to drive, and after one “session” she threw up her hands and signed me up for driving school. Sometimes you just can’t “teach” your own kids. There’s history there, right? So an acquaintance of mine asked me if I would help her son with his summer reading and writing assignments. She asked because I was familiar with the material and, well, because he’s not my kid. Let’s call him James. James is about 14 and he goes to a well-respected Jesuit prep school. He’s a nice looking young man, and he will definitely be very handsome soon. Right now he’s all arms and legs and lanky-ness — he doesn’t look completely hatched. But he is adorable and funny. Every time I’ve seen him he’s wearing a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon T-shirt. Is Pink Floyd enjoying a new audience? For poetic symmetry it would be more fitting if he was wearing a Pink Floyd The Wall T-shirt. The song “Another Brick in the Wall” comes to mind.

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon Album Cover

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon Album Cover

James also has just the right amount of teenage rage for me to find him delightful. Here’s the list of what he has to read over the summer and answer questions on: Maya Angelou’s “Graduation,” Chief Seattle’s “Reply to the U.S. Government” speech, Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom, Mary Mebane’s “Back of the Bus,” and Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha.

Herman Hesse Siddhartha

Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

Just a little light summer reading! So here’s James’s summer buzz kill AND straight to the heart of fun number one.  He’s okay with meeting me because I think he secretly hopes that I’ll do most of the work or at least get it done and over. We meet at the library — neutral territory — which was agreed upon for less distractions and possible power struggles. We’re nearly done with the bulk of the work, and I’ve gotten to know James. He likes something to kick against — for instance: authority. In our case authority comes in the guise of the librarians and the library’s rather dictatorial set of rules. Okay they have rules and that’s fine and we are observing them. It’s the distrust that I and James find highly annoying. One particular librarian doesn’t believe that I’m just helping him with homework. She seems suspicious of why I am spending time with him. What is my relation to this young man, and what are we working on, and can I see what you printed out!?? Really? How about our blood type, do you need that too? What gets James is that we’re regarded with suspicion. Also, the library is totally empty. I mean EMPTY. It’s summer and we’ve hardly had a rainy day. The only other room that is being used for “quiet study” is occupied by about six not quiet old ladies who are playing cards — for money (?)(!)

I can’t remember now what set off another interrogation from this one library lady – really we couldn’t be more benign — but it ignited James. Straight to the heart of fun number two.I think he was ready to go off because I did notice the withering look he gave his mother before she left him in my charge. So he started venting and it was pretty entertaining. When he started to run down, I stupidly said, “What’s she think I’m doing to you in here?” It was a rhetorical question, but then I had a thought and image in my mind of an answer to that question, and then IT happened. IT is the newest virus affecting the country: the loss of the filter between the brain and the mouth.

Phrenology Head

Phrenology Head

To my shock and chagrin I caught it at that moment. I said, “Maybe she thinks I’m going to put you in front of some black insurgency flag, we’ll turn the GoPro on and I’ll make you read aloud Mary Mebane’s “Back of the Bus” streaming live on the Internet. People will see it and wonder, what the hell is going on?!” I immediately apologized and acknowledged how inappropriate what I said was, but James got a visual too. This sent James into fits of giggles and laughter (OK maybe you had to be there), but it took a few minutes to get back on track. It was a nice moment, not necessarily a Kodak one, but it kind of sealed the deal between me and James. We’re on the same team. There’s us and the straight to the heart of fun joy killers.

Parking Sign

Parking Sign

Clare Irwin

To All the Pets We’ve Loved Before…

…and will again and after.

Bull Dog

Bull Dog

A dear young friend of mine lost her beloved pet this past Thursday night. This young lady is a special soul, intelligent, sensitive, creative and loving. A wonderful person, beautiful inside and out. She possesses the pale beauty and perfect features that one sees in paintings of the Northern Renaissance — I am thinking of Jan van Eyck as an example. She loved her pet and cared for her in a fashion that was so touching. My heart aches for her loss. Many of us know the grief of saying our goodbyes to the pets we love with all our hearts: dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, all of them. Of course there is other devastating grief. But I am thinking of this unique and wonderful bond we are able to have with these beautiful creatures who simply love us.

Girl with horse

Girl with horse

Whether it’s a pet from long ago or a recent loss we hold the memory of them in our hearts. They stay with us always.

Baby Mice

Baby Mice

I remember vaguely a movie where a man thinks he has died and gone to heaven. He awakens on a beautiful deserted beach and a dog comes happily running up to greet him. The man says, “Oh, I was hoping there would be dogs here.” Nice. I’m hoping and believing that all the creatures we love will be there too. I recall in prep school singing the lovely Anglican hymn, “All things bright and beautiful,/All creatures great and small,/All things wise and wonderful,/The Lord God made them all…I realize that not everyone shares this belief, but I hope all can take comfort that wherever our lovely pets are they are happy and frolicking and forever beautiful and well.

Black Cat

Black Cat

Clare Irwin

P.S. I hope you will share your remembrances of your much loved pets with me.

 

Luca Brasi Sleeps with Oscar Mayer

Fall 2015

Fall 2015

I live near a lovely small village on the coast. It is peaceful serene and incredibly beautiful. I walk there often and it has a casual relaxed vibe. The locals seem happy, and they are outdoorsy, active, and sociable folks. From the outside it seems that all is right in their world. And, for the most part I think it is. It’s an exclusive place — like any area near the water it is prohibitively expensive. There’s a local news and miscellaneous site that posts local events, news, recommendations, items for sale, etc. Today there was a post that seemed to reveal a slight discontent underneath all the white bread, tan and long of limbed, sportif perfection. The posting read: Dead Fish in mailbox [Okay, so finally something interesting in the equivalent of the local police blotter!] It continues,This morning I found a dead blue fish in my mailbox. It was wrapped in paper towels and had a hotdog pushed in its mouth. Who would do something like that?

Wow. My first reaction was typical: oh how awful, what’s wrong with people, blah, blah blah, and then it kind of stuck with me this image and event. Of course the fish in the paper is not that original since nearly everyone has seen The Godfather, but the hot dog – that intrigued me. I’m not quite sure if I get the symbolism, but in the spirit of the soon-to-occur Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro I would give the “offense” high scores in creativity and originality — if not flawlessly executed. Paper towels?

Summer 2016

Summer 2016

So it seems someone is not happy in this idyllic village. Well, more than someone since I’m pretty sure the recipient of the fish is less than thrilled. Am I detecting further discord inside the yacht clubs, luxury vehicles, gin and tonic cocktails on the veranda cocoon? This morning when I walked along the shore I saw two stops signs that had been graffiti-ed. One read, “Stop telling me what to do!” and the other, in the same handwriting, “Stop yelling at me!” Okay! Keeping it real! Now, the question is: is our unhappy stop sign artist and the fish in the mailbox delivery person one and the same? Or does more discontent abound?

  Clare Irwin

Stop Sign

Stop Sign