Faces in the Trees

When I sit at my kitchen table I witness an amazing panorama of trees through the picture window. I have the impression that most of the trees are in close proximity, although this is not so. Yet the branches of each tree appear to be reaching out to others and create the feeling of a puppet show or possibly a type of mating dance. I observe numerous figures in this mosaic, but when I turn my head the images are gone.

The wind and the sun affect how the patterns are created. The markings on the trees such as lichen and scars left by lost branches contribute to the plethora of designs as well. The woods in the background and even the small amount of visible space between the trees add to the magic.

When the wind is blowing the feathery boughs of the hemlocks look like alligators, with open saw tooth jaws. On the old gnarled maple, I observed the head of a man with long hair, wearing headgear suggesting a medieval helmet. His features were amazingly clear. One image that wasn’t so fleeting was that of a deer perched on the branches, dining on leaves of another tree. Hmm! Maybe that wasn’t a vision.

The foliage is sparse now but we still have lots of squirrels and interesting birds to grab our attention. A few days ago Marty and I spotted a pair of gorgeous gray birds with bold, black, art deco -style feathering. After checking my bird book, I determined that these were Northern or Loggerhead Shrikes. According to the book, these birds make rare appearances. Since I’ve been looking out of the same picture window for 52 years and haven’t seen them before, I must be right.

Usually we experience a heavy rainstorm before November is over, which brings down the remaining leaves. Then we see into the woods and imagine how the trees will tantalize us during the following summer. But then, aren’t the sculptures formed by drifting snow, mesmerizing?

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Killingworth Foundation’s: Applied Arts & Sciences Award

Of the many volunteer activities I’ve participated in my 50 -plus years living in Killingworth, CT, one of my favorites has been serving on the Scholarship Committee of the Killingworth Foundation.  I enjoy meeting the young students and talking with them about their aspirations for their educations and futures.

This year we launched a new award, The Donald Welter Award for Excellence in the Applied Arts. The scholarship is named after a long-time resident who was active in the community and taught industrial arts at a local high school.

Founded in 2007, the Killingworth Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports local community groups and grants awards to students for higher education. While we’ve been offering scholarships for academic achievement and for aptitude in the fine arts, we didn’t recognize industrial arts until this year. The members of the scholarship committee realized the need to expand their awards to include students seeking different careers, and are aware that to obtain a liberal arts degree from a four-year college is not the best choice for everyone. We are excited to provide a small monetary gift to help a student entering the vocational trades.

On June 1, 2016 the Killingworth Foundation presented its first award in applied arts and sciences at the Haddam Killingworth High School. The committee agreed to honor a highly motivated graduate who plans to major in Media Studies and Digital arts, with a focus on producing documentaries.

We wish the recipient the best of luck, and hope that she’ll be the first of many to achieve the Donald Welter Award for Excellence in Applied Arts.

 

Wyoming: Butch’s Place

Butch’s Place, a western -style tavern comes complete with swinging doors, tables covered with red and white checkered oilcloth, and posters of locally produced ale and whiskey. A single gas fired stove provides heat for the dining area. The tavern, on Route 10 in Kirby, Wyoming, (population, last count, 375) between Thermopolis and Worland has been a landmark for over twenty years.

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Of course the main attraction to Butch’s Place was Butch. Marty and I don’t remember Butch’s last name and never knew his first name. He was just Butch. His wife, Linda helped manage the restaurant and also held a job working for the Town of Thermopolis.

Butch was a gregarious, accommodating host. He was known for his “okey doky” to any request. In spite of Butch’s claim that he didn’t cook, just “only put food together” there were several items on the menu that were unique to his establishment. A favorite amongst the children were the twelve -ounce hamburgers, whether they were ordered unadorned or smothered. His was one of the first restaurants in the area to serve buffalo burgers, cooked to perfection. A single order of chicken salad was large enough to satisfy a family of four, and the lightly grilled sirloin finger steaks were a delicious specialty. One dish that I haven’t seen before were his “hog wings”, which are pork shins, about the size of chicken drumsticks, very tasty and tender. They were cooked so that the meat fell off the bones.

A few years ago, Butch retired and sold the business. Although the food was still good, twelve- ounce burgers were no longer served, and we missed Butch’s and Linda’s camaraderie and conviviality. The tavern might have changed hands more than once.

You can imagine our surprise, upon visiting Wyoming last winter, to learn that Butch’s Place had closed. The rumor is that the recent owner’s girl friend decided to put pool tables in the dining area, which infringed upon the seating capacity and detracted from the character of the eatery. One of the employees was enraged and pulled the plugs on the refrigerators and freezers. The food was contaminated and it took quite a while before the restaurant was cleaned, sanitized, and safe to be used. To date, nobody has shown any interest in rehabilitating the facility and starting up again.

Back in Thermopolis, we observed other changes. Restaurants come and go for many reasons. As a result of a poor economy there were fewer bathers at the pool. In other years the pool was crowded with visitors from neighboring communities, particularly over the weekends. There were winter athletic meets at the high school and participants from different schools usually included a swim in their busy schedules. We may not have been in Thermopolis during the right week, but the out of town athletes were also rare.

The Quality Inn that we’ve stayed at has the capacity to park the tractor-trailers operated by truckers working in the oil patch. They haul large pipe, massive generators and other equipment to nearby oil fields. With the glut of oil and low prices for fuel, many oil wells hat have been capped and thousands of people have lost their jobs. This has had a ripple effect on the entire economy in the region. Consequently, truckers at the motel were not as numerous as other years.

Thermopolis is still home to the “World’s Largest Hot Springs” and we delight in ducking our heads under the hot water to get the icicles out of our hair. It’s also fun to see children making angels in the snow before jumping in to the pool. Water aerobics, which I find therapeutic, are still offered at the “Teepee” pools where we swim. It’s fascinating to watch the birds migrate in squadron formation, while we ‘re swimming. I love counting boxcars and tankers as the railroad trains whiz by the pool, but I have to admit that I lose track when there are more than two hundred cars on one train. We also enjoy watching the stars come out, whenever we swim in the evening. Some things I hope will never change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONGS I LEARNED FROM MY MOTHER AND FATHER

 

“Take me out to the Ball Game, take me out to the crowd…”I can still hear my granddaughter, Ruby, now nineteen, sing that song, years ago.

Does anyone over 4 sing anymore? Do we spend too much time texting or in front of a computer screen? Or do we not hear music that makes us want to sing?

I remember the broken heart love songs my mother used to sing like, “The Isle Of Capri” and “Whistling in the Dark.” My dad’s preferred whacky ditties and ballads, such as “The Old Carnarsie Line” and “Grandpa’s Old Brown Pants.” We serenaded my parents at their 50h anniversary party with, ”How do I Know My Youth is All Spent,” the song memorialized by Pete Seeger. You can just imagine my father’s joy upon hearing his grandchildren bellow his old favorite, “Grandpa’ Old Brown Pants.”

l-r: My cousin Stephen, Lisa, David, Naomi, Madeline, niece Debbie and nephew Mark, 1979

l-r: My cousin Stephen, Lisa, David, Naomi, Madeline, niece Debbie and nephew Mark, 1979

I know that I am no Barbra Streisand but I did sing with the choir in college and performed as a member of the chorus with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Regina Resnick, the opera star, gave guest concerts for Hillel, at Hunter College and I was part of the chorus that provided accompaniment. Yet if I attempted to sing, when my children were growing up, I was greeted with nothing but scowls. Recently I was singing “On the Old Carnarsie Line” and my daughter couldn’t understand why she hadn’t heard that song before.

I always enjoyed reading to my children, grandchildren, and now to my great-grandchildren. When I am with my great-grandchildren we enjoy singing together, regardless of who’s listening. One of our favorites is “If All the Raindrops Were Lemon Drops and Gumdrops.” 

 

“Grandpa’s Old Brown Pants”

Oh, my grandfather he, at the age of 83
Thought one Sunday morning he was going to die.
And when he was dead, why they took him from his bed.
And hung him on the clothesline to dry.

To my brother it was found, he had left 1000 pounds,
The same to “Eobaimer”, they called Ned.
But when it came to me, the lawyer said I see.
He’s left to you his old brown pants.

Chorus:
How they tittered, how they laughed, how my brother and sister yelled
How they goad me whenever they got the chance,
Cause my grandfather left to me his old brown pants.

One bright summer’s day Isabella chanced to stray
By the river and she thought she’d take a swim.
And the billy goat showed his nose and he ate up all her clothes,
Being summer, her garments they were thin.

I had business there the day and I also chanced to stray
By the river and I saw her situation at a glance
I went over to sister Belle, and I started in to yell,
How’d you like to have the old brown pants?

No more they titter, no more they laugh, no more my brother and sister yell.
No more they goad me whenever they get the chance,
Cause my grandfather left to me his old brown pants.

 

High Tide

About two weeks ago, Marty and I were invited to attend a memorial service for our friend, John, and witness his ashes being scattered in Long Island Sound. About fifty close friends and relatives arrived at the home of the deceased around 3:30 p.m. so that we could be at the beach at high tide, around 4:00.

People wrapped themselves in coats and scarves, in anticipation of cold winds coming off the sound, and we walked a short distance to the beach from the home.

It was a cool fall afternoon without other beach lovers in the vicinity. The children in the group didn’t hesitate to splash in the water and draw figures in the sand.

John’s son, Christian, donned a pair of short pants and carried a large plastic bag containing his father’s ashes. John was a big man and there were seven pounds of ashes. Christian spoke briefly about his Dad, and about how he always waited for the tide to be high to enjoy a swim. There were tears in his voice as well as in his eyes.

Christian waded into the sound just above his knees. We watched as he fed the voracious waves small amounts of his father’s remains until they were all devoured. A very emotional experience!

Even without the accoutrements of a formal funeral, saying good-bye to a parent is traumatic. You become part of the older generation when your parent is gone. Every family must choose the form of closure that is right for them. Yet by disbursing the ashes of a loved one, you in effect, return the person to nature.

We quietly walked back to the house. A gracious reception awaited us.

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Attractions on the Interstate

Our usual trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming was delayed this year from December to late January. It is a long journey and each year we check out the possibilities of flying, and each year we opt to drive. The logistics of flying are horrible; the connections from one flight to another, disastrous. So we pack up our car and prepare for three and one half days on the road. We have our routine and manage to visit friends and relatives along the way and enjoy the ride.

Honestly, I look forward to stopping at the incredible rest areas on the Interstate Highways, funded by federal and state governments. The familiarity of these sites is “comforting.” These facilities have no concessions. Fresh food and fuel aren’t sold, but the areas around the buildings are landscaped and have shaded spots for picnicking. There are placards disseminating local history and geology, and travel information is available. I’ve heard it said that the most attractive room in your house should be the bathroom, where we spend more time studying detail. This applies to pubic restrooms as well.

Nebraska was one of the first states to modernize the rest areas on Interstate Highway 80. The lavatories include attractive blue and white tiles; the stalls are corrugated stainless steel, and there are built -in changing tables. unnamed-5

The windy hills on Route 26, in Wyoming are dotted with creatively designed rustic facilities. The stalls are covered with mosaics constructed from local stone and the painted trim on the stalls compliments the hues in the stonework. unnamed-6

Back on Interstate 80, in Iowa, the comfort stations are architectural achievements, more like museums, known as New Generation Rest Stops. The motorist needn’t wonder where he/she is; each unit is unique. Glass and steel are used extensively in construction. The floors inside the structures are mosaic tile maps of the locale. My favorite is a tribute to prominent writers from the state. The pillars at the entrance are designed to look like writing pens. On our recent trip, we didn’t stop at the facility with the pens. However, I did take a picture of a granite sculpture in front of the highway rest area in Council Bluffs, Iowa.P1000024-2

On the Ohio Turnpike, most of the rest sites have concessions with access to all services. Some of the facilities are large circular buildings and the concessions offer better quality food. It was at one of the stops on the Ohio Turnpike, that we discovered “The Panera Bread Company,” a chain we’ve come to like and look for in our travels. There’s comfort sometimes in knowing what we can eat.

The stop on the Garden State Parkway, near Oradell, New Jersey, and close to where the Garden State and Route 287 intersect is always bustling. Yet, I appreciate the fresh plants on display in the lavatory year round.

It’s hard to miss the palatial edifices designed like hunting lodges, invoking those of Teddy Roosevelt’s era, on the New York Thruway and on the strip of I-90 that runs through the state of New York. There are several styles of “lodges,” so the traveler has an idea which town he/she’s near on the highway.

Are you tired of the hassle of flying? My guess is that you haven’t visited such beautiful bathrooms in any of the airports like the ones on the nation’s highways.  So get the family chariot in good condition and see the U.S.A!

 

 

 

Whither I Go, My Knitting Goes

I can’t forget the photo of Eleanor Roosevelt knitting while listening to election returns on the radio. I can’t think of any activity that works as well as knitting to calm the nerves; reading requires too much concentration. Even music may not be heard. But needlework beats nibbling, smoking or nail biting, to conquer stress. I remember my sister-in- law crocheting while her husband was undergoing surgery. 6a00d83452615669e201b7c6e47bcc970b-800wi

I can bury my nose in a book while flying or traveling on a train, although I usually have my needlework on hand when I’m chatting while waiting for the plane or train. A young man I met at Gatwick Airport in the U.K., admired the baby hat that I was making for the grandson to be, and was impressed that I “always had something on the go”.

When I am a passenger in a car I find it difficult concentrating on reading but I can always take a break from knitting to look at the scenery. My husband has complained that we drove 100 miles out of the way because I wasn’t watching the road or the map. I do put my knitting down when we are at a busy intersection or if we are in unfamiliar territory. Now, I often let Samantha, our GPS guide bring us to our destinations, but even she makes mistakes, bringing us recently to the Atlantic Ocean when we requested a route from Maine to Lake Winnipesaukee, in New Hampshire.

It was never a problem getting a seat on a crowded subway train on my daily commute to school or work years ago. All I had to do was pull out my knitting needles. I found that knitting helped pass the time while waiting on line to register for college courses and during those boring orientation sessions.

I was about nine years old when I learned to knit with the help of my Aunt Rose, and family friends, but I probably was thirteen when I finished a checkered, patterned scarf for myself. It wasn’t until I was in college that I became a serious knitter and tried my hand at a sleeveless, v-necked slipover for my father. Although the v-neck was far from perfect, Dad appreciated my efforts and wore the sweater.

Argyle socks were the rage in the 1950’s and the women at Hunter College were making socks for the men in their lives. I asked a classmate what she would do if the romance ended before the socks were finished. She replied that the socks were intended for Joe and Joe would get the socks regardless. Not my style! When Marty and I were engaged, I knitted argyle socks for him. Marty has been the recipient of other knitted gifts, but his favorites are woolen mittens, for warmth. We were away from home and he needed mittens. I decided to see what I had on hand and found some nice grey yarn in my bag. Since I didn’t think there would be enough grey, I striped the cuffs and tips of the mittens with purple, green and yellow. The compliments keep coming. IMG_0060

No project was too large or too small, too intricate or too simple. In fact I prefer more challenging designs and didn’t shy away from cables, laces, entrelacs or fair isles. A friend remembers that I said that I couldn’t see any purpose in doing something that was sold in the store. Now of course you can buy all sorts of ready made knitted items. I have adjusted directions for size, weight of yarn and size of needles without compromising the fit of the garment. Wool, the yarn that I favor, has many attributes, including being warmer than cottons or synthetics and holding its shape better. It is a more giving and forgiving material to work with. I also like the feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers as I work.

My fingers cramp when I work on a section of the project with few stitches on the needle. The proprietor of the yarn shop suggested to my daughter Lisa, that she keep switching back and forth from one project to another, with different size needles, if her hands ache, to keep the fingers from being in a bind and exercise them.

Back in the 1960’s when mini -skirts were popular, I made a tweed suit for myself of wine heather and coral, worked together, with a Mandarin collar and hand -knitted frog closings. I outgrew the suit when mini-skirts gave way to the cowgirl look of the 1970’s of mid -calf flared skirts and boots. I gave the suit to my mother. The sleeves and skirt were too short for her and a friend added knitted borders to the sleeves and the hem of the skirt. The alterations weren’t exactly in keeping with the style of the suit but it looked nice and Mom wore the suit for quite a while. When Mom could no longer wear the suit and mini skirts were back in vogue, I restored the suit to its original style for Lisa.

My mother had a beautiful Italian mohair sweater with hand -embroidered flowers. Here again the sleeves were too short for her. My daughter Madeline was given a box of different colored mohair, which she passed on to me. I picked up the stitches on the bottom of the sleeves, and extended the cuffs, adding a few stripes of the colors that were used in the sweater. Mom loved the sweater.

My grandson, Jacob, told my daughter, Lisa, that she was going to be a grandmother, by asking her how long it would take her to knit a carriage blanket. She remarked that it would take her no time at all because she still had the blanket that I made for him; a beautiful bulky entrelac cover, in two shades of light green, with a hand -crocheted corded edge.

Knitting isn’t just for women. A good friend made himself a black sweater because he didn’t want charcoal grey that was available in the stores. Kaffe Fassett is an artist who paints with needlecraft. I have adapted many of his designs.unnamed-1

After 9/11, our handbags were searched scrupulously at airports for potential weapons. Embroidery scissors were amongst the contraband. Lisa learned that the cutting edge on the dental floss pack is good for cutting yarn. NOBODY is going to stop us from knitting.

 

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