The Shadows Know


And can shadows pleasure give?
Pleasures only shadows be
Cast by bodies we conceive
And are made the things we deem
In those figures which they seem.” 

–Samuel Daniel

A gathering Nor’easter announced itself in enveloping unsettling gray, a shadow that abruptly settled over the landscape. It swallowed the sun before it could emerge in a sliver on the horizon. It nullified the morning.

Winter’s dark forces can be powerful indeed.

Eventually light tiptoes back in, almost always defined by shadow.  Today dollops of sunlight made their way through tree cover and splashed on the icy blue-gray sheen atop a foot-and-a-half of fresh snow.  Bright oblong dots formed a jaunty path, as if to guide an unseen deer.

Away from the woods, among abiding dunes, high winds transformed snow into gentle waves cross-hatched with exquisite etchings of sea-grass shadows.

“Feed apace then, greedy eyes,
On the wonder you behold;
Take it sudden as it flies,
Though you take it not to hold.
When your eyes have done their part,
Thought must length it in the heart.”

Zero-Visibility Blogging: My Second Blogiversary!

January, 2014

I just drove my daughter to the airport on this week’s second white-shrouded zero-visibility travelling morning.

Metaphorically, on my second blogiversary it remains difficult to see all of gems which may glitter in the most unexpected places once the fog lifts.

Ireland 1726

Grief has quite the half-life.

I continue to marvel at the geographic variety both among the blogs I follow and the people who drop in on my little site–sometimes accidentally, as are, no doubt, the people who persist in being disappointed by reaching my fly-balls-at-Fenway post after typing “live shagging” into their search engines.

Readers from 96 countries have dropped in this year–two countries up from last year, though I haven’t yet figured out which two, or whether other countries shifted and realigned on the list.

In the cyber-house today, so far, have been visitors from the United States, Canada, Estonia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic.

The convicted murderess who shares my name continues to be one of the top leading search terms.  (As I said to the person who once accidentally phoned our home seeking the public defender’s office, “Boy, do you have the wrong number.”)

And the late lamented Solitario Jorge continues to be the most common search term that does not involve my own name.   Close to this magnificent tortoise, in search term popularity, are chickens: specifically, the no-nonsense chickens of whom Pablo Neruda professed to grow weary.

Disdainfully down/He casts his small eyes, as if/Weary of humans
Disdainfully down/He casts his small eyes, as if/Weary of humans

My random thoughts remains well (and oddly) distributed.  On a single day, I was amused to find that readers had reached assorted posts by searching terms as diverse as “variegated temple bamboo,” “duke of earl,” “jose saramago elephant onomatopoeia man,” “fibonacci spiral and cancer,” and “sibling rivalry irish twins.”

This year’s runaway most popular post was The Rusty Nail.  Somewhat oxymoronically, that rusty nail was Freshly Pressed, an honor bestowed upon Disbelieving Dark during my first year of blogging.  Both prominently featured birds, my messengers from the husband I lost to pancreatic cancer.

I briefly experimented with new graphic formats for the blog, but returned to my original formatting theme, which happens to go by the name “Twenty Ten”–the year my husband Jim was diagnosed, before he was with us in the way writing this blog helps me preserve his life with us.  Coincidence?

I am grateful to anyone who pops in and reads a post, accidentally or otherwise, and especially to those who take the time to leave such wonderful comments and open up their own hearts and memories.

Here’s to year number three, and perhaps a little more lifting of the fog.


Confessions of an Habitual Offender

John Adams Courthouse, Boston, Massachusetts

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a person can be indicted as an habitual criminal.  It is as if plucking a magic combination from three enumerated categories of convictions means one has developed an ingrained immoral memory and no longer can help but to engage in criminality.  Talk about a bad habit.

Another intriguing piece of legislative art elevates crime from a mere “habit” to a career–although one would think the glass ceiling to professional advancement has been fairly well solidified by the time one is held to answer to a charge of being an Armed Career Criminal and faces a mandatory minimum prison term of as much as fifteen years.

Lines variously attributed to wildly different sources had a recent incarnation in a movie about Margaret Thatcher:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become your character.”

Perhaps.  As a logical matter I’m not entirely persuaded.

The point is that as annoying as one or more of my children may find some of my habits… they really aren’t all that bad, are they?

A friend once told me I have the “least addictive personality” of anyone he knows.  I have no addictions, although I do have a “Breaking Bad” habit so compelling that I stockpiled blue rock candy, chamomile tea and a certain brand of sweetener (interesting product placement) for a recent finale.   I am suffering moderate withdrawal symptoms following the show’s conclusion.

A haiku habit/even when unpropitious/can come over me.

I have a longstanding fabric habit that calls upon me to stockpile every pattern, color and shade I might be able to use to transform things found in nature into cotton.


I habitually make and promptly lose lists of things I need to do.

I procrastinate.

My maternal heart and muscle memory causes me to lose myself in time and sway gently, as if holding a newborn baby in my arms, when I cradle something of similar heft–a box to be mailed at the end of a long line, bolts of fabric to be cut, or groceries in a check-out line.

I speak to people who are not alive, yet have “their five senses intact, their footprints like a butterfly’s.

And I have a habit, every day, of peering into the sky and water, looking for life and color and light; of swerving off my path to explore a photographic opportunity outdoors; of calling back to my senses parts of life which were beautiful, and hoping that the future will hold such moments as well.

Worse habits may exist.


An Emerald Necklace

Many necklaces are special.

Sometimes a necklace is not a necklace.

Strung between my longtime work world and the galaxy of Boston hospitals clustered around Fenway Park–the first and last ballpark where my husband Jim saw the home team play–is an Emerald Necklace.

My day began very early, in deep dark, when I drove to Dana Farber’s Cancer Institute.   Along the highway were simmering meadows of black fog.

In Boston I paid a visit to the Institute’s Healing Garden, suspended stories above the city.  It bursts with white and magenta orchids and has a soundtrack of chirping birds.  Running close to one wide window is a lattice of intricate flora which resemble sailors’ knots gone wild–bright, curving tendrils like a hybrid of origami and undersea creatures.

Jim would have studied them closely, thinking about how he might engineer a similarly spectacular display in his own garden.

Very close to Dana Farber is an Emerald Necklace, Frederick Law Olmsted’s string of parks, which stretches from Boston Common to Franklin Park.

Before work and after rushing to a series of appointments, I had a rare opportunity to pause between worlds.   I slipped down to the bank of one of this necklace’s jewels, which sparkled and fluttered with Jim’s greens and blues–and the birds I think of as frequent messengers from him.

By a sturdy rock, a large bird oversaw five smaller ones as they navigated the pond.

On that same path, near those same teaching hospitals, Jim and I had walked hand in hand as newlyweds during the rare occasions I could meet him there while he could take a break as he moved through his medical training.

Young couples strolled with babies.   Much older couples walked more slowly together.  Some were quiet; some talked animatedly.  Some endearingly bickered.

I am not sure why this place affected and overcame me as it did today, as I walked that path alone for both of us.

%d bloggers like this: