This is a sneak peek from a photo essay to be posted later this month. These ladies just couldn’t wait any longer.
Four years ago today I went out to play with the kids and take photos in the snow. Two minutes into it I slipped on smooth ice under the snow and landed on my head and watched the Presidential Inauguration through the fog of a mild concussion (Hillary Clinton, I feel your pain). Sometimes it still hurts on that spot at the back of my head, and it hurts, too, to know that not everything has gone as well as we had hoped over the last four years. We feel more divided and less safe and we are still at war, but we seem to be making progress in a lot of important areas even as we fall behind in others.
In 2009, we were elated at the historical significance of Barack Obama’s election and also in survival mode from the Great Recession. Then, we were looking at some huge milestones for our kids and wondering how we would survive those. Now, we are satisfied from having accomplished so much, proud of our children, but weary and a little worried about the world we are handing to them. It is a new kind of uncertainty, informed by the realization that talking about peace and compromise are so much easier than accomplishing them – and we really thought we knew that. Sometimes it’s like the 1970s all over again, just with better clothes and more cynicism (which I didn’t think was possible).
I still have high hopes for our President, still feel the same thrill at seeing the monuments and marble corridors in Washington that we have visited a few times in recent years, still look ahead optimistically to the next milestones for our family. And I still walk very gingerly in the snow.
There is something to be said for a cold, snowy January. We are so accustomed to unusual weather that typical weather has become its own event. Holiday winter storms and iced-over ponds restore winter to what we expect it to be, and in these times a plummeting thermometer is truly a breath of fresh air. The garden lies protected under a blanket of snow, paw and hoof prints dot trails across the dormant lawn, and fires burn in the wood stove because they are pleasant, not because the power is out. I always look forward to a January hibernation so that I can regroup from the old year and get ready for the new one. This year, the weather is perfect for that.
The world is rightly preoccupied with the details, perspectives, and aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and I have said my piece here. One day just before Christmas, as I blogged and read the news and generally wallowed in the injustices of the world late into the evening, my cell phone rang. It was a 20-year old young man I have known since he was a tot, and he was calling to say he was on our front porch because he did not want to startle us by ringing the doorbell. He and his friend came by to deliver…pecan pie. Pecan pie that they made from scratch (crust and all) that they wanted me to taste and critique so they could make a second pie even later that night. Home from college, they were following up on a pie tutorial they had from our neighbor over Thanksgiving break. The pie they brought me was nearly perfect – better than I’ve ever made, for sure – and they asked me to pull out all of my many pie plates and tins to see if they should try a different sized dish for the next version. I’m not sure if you can justifiably say that deconstructing a pecan pie recipe is a life affirming experience, but I will happily go out on that limb. Watching the meticulous, bright-eyed enthusiasm these guys showed as we discussed how to improve their recipe (it came out eventually that the perfected pie would be proffered to a girl the next day) was the closest I came to pure joy in those days following the tragedy.
As the holidays have progressed, it is this newest emerging generation that gives me the most smiles, the most hope, and the most confidence that we will emerge from this era of dysfunction and despair with our souls intact. I love you guys.
Obama Campaign Office, Main Street, Nashua, NH.
The New Hampshire Obama campaign staff hand-cut letters out of foam core that spelled out “NH 4 OBAMA” and convinced people to hold them up throughout the rally. It’s not as easy as it looks.
The President gave a rousing version of his stump speech on a spectacular October afternoon. He was probably saving his new material for the Al Smith Dinner in New York that night and his appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
We all want a moment that we think belongs just to us. My friend and I were the only spectators on this stretch of street as the motorcade passed. We like to think that he saw us.
Hurricane Sandy was comparatively kind to New England but no discussion of Election 2012 is complete without her.
Sunrise, Tuesday, November 6, 2012.
On the way to the polls, a juxtaposition of the 20th and 21st century economies.
These signs were everywhere; we had an 85% turnout.
There were numerous Brown signs posted in town, many of them ten times this size. See also: previous post.
Even though Brown won the local vote, Elizabeth Warren ran away with the election for Senate.
And amidst the election hoopla, signs of thing to come. Turkeys party and then get raffled off.
Civic pride on both sides of the street.
An unattended sign at a polling place caused a little controversy, but not enough for it to come down.
Although it was cold, it was sunny, making it easier to get out the vote.
As the sun went down, the sign holders were steadfast in the cold.
Darkness settled over the Groton School, with football practice under the lights in the distance. It seemed fitting to end the day in this place where Presidents and statesmen first made their marks.
We rushed to buy the morning papers with the results, not realizing that they went to press before 11pm.
2012 was indeed the social media election – this was the only copy of this edition available.
The election produced another winner: Nate Silver, who had the numbers right all along. Goodbye, Gallup.
But old habits die hard, and it was good to sit down on the first snowy day of the season and read the news the old fashioned way, with soup and coffee.
On a clear day you can see Mount Wachusett. The Sterling Fair is just the right mix of rides (including our favorite, a real helicopter), animals, tractor pulls, arts and crafts, produce, art and baked goods.
Oh, and junk food, I forgot that one. I think I take this same photo every year. I love that cone.
Can I have this banner, please? I want to send it to my daughter at college.
No giant pumpkin this year (did I miss it?) but this is almost as good.
Right on cue, the weather turned cool, the summer haze lifted, and the sweatshirts came out. People and nature fall into step for the first day of school. Squinting in the sunshine, I see the first leaves drift down, only the edges yellow and red, and I swear can smell the apples ripening even though the orchards are miles away. Labor Day is coming up and the blooms on the snowball bushes are trading in their white for pink. The boys put on their new sneakers, and I get out my hipster glasses so that I can read the tiny type on all of those forms I have to fill out with my brand new sharpies.
I have not even reached for the towel yet after my shower when a voice pipes up around the corner “Ready to go yet, Mom?” School isn’t scheduled to start for an hour, it takes fifteen minutes to get there, and I know he heard me turn off the water four seconds earlier. No, I am not ready to go. But I am glad that it is still possible for a teenager to be excited for the first day of school, so I snap it up and get him there twenty minutes early, knowing that for the first time in 10 weeks I will be returning to an empty house.
Now and then I post photographs of windows because I suppose I like what symbolize and how they gave composition to an image or structure to an otherwise unstructured world – I love the implied order of right angles. Wade Zahares is an artist who loves windows even more than I do, I think, and he creates art that portrays windows in ways and colors in I can only dream about. And the more of his art I see the more it matches up with times and places in our lives, including this Boston area triple decker from the ’80s and his more recent coastal New England landscapes and harbors. There is even what appears to be a midwestern plainscape – I have never felt so validated by another person’s art.
And as if that isn’t enough, he portrays trains and rolling vistas in prints and illustrations for wonderful books. We first discovered Zahares’ art though the 1998 book, Window Music, which delighted my young children and still delights me.
And for all of the sharpness of the images and vibrance of color, he works in pastels; I love the juxtaposition of sharp angles and bold landscapes – sometimes with the turf rolled back to reveal fantastic infrastructure – with the occasionally gently smudged pastel. It is fine art that stands up to the cacophony of the garish digital age, paying homage to some great pop art but keeping a kind of hand-forged integrity.
Zahares’ art, in its way, turns LettersHead on its own head, offering up 21st century art in a 20th century way. He does in images what I try to do in words, and the time he has devoted to his craft has produced spectacular results.
Thank you to Wade Zahares for giving us permission to use his art in this post.
I work out to Steve Martin‘s banjo music. I imagine he would be appalled to know that, but then again maybe it’s a marketing idea. I sort of admire people who can go the gym and work out regularly but I am not one of them. The idea of getting in my car and driving somewhere to exercise just seems wrong, not to mention embarrassing for someone who refuses to wear sweatpants anywhere, ever. If it’s too cold to walk outside, looking out the basement window and listening to The Crow gives my mind something wonderful to do while my body is busy being miserable. It’s perfect. Forget Katy Perry, Michael Jackson and the rest of the thumping-base workout music – it all only reminds me of how young I am not. But banjo music brings out the young in everyone. It is inherently happy, endlessly sunny and an invitation to love life. The winter melts to spring, the rural roads stretch before me, and when I am finished I can go and write.
Speaking of which, a while back my daughter and I went to hear Steve Martin himself talk about his life and play a little banjo. At the end of the interview by insipid entertainment reporter Joyce Kulhawik (I am loathe to even give her a link), Mr. Martin took questions. One person whined to him about writer’s block and asked him how he kept himself creative and he was blissfully bemused. In effect, he told her that, having worked so hard to get to this point in his life that he can now pursue his ideas whenever the mood strikes him. No pep talks, no tricks of the trade, just a very candid glimpse of someone who has earned the right to do nothing and thus pursues everything. Think about it – writer, comedian, actor, director, playwright, poet, collector, musician. Even if you did have writer’s block how could you think someone like Steve Martin could provide you with any more wisdom than he already has?