Celebrate It All


What would a birthday be without a blog post? After all, I wrote my first eight years ago, on my 53rd birthday.

When I turned 30, an old college friend convinced me to do it up big, stating, “No one cares when you turn 31.” True. So for most of us, these ‘milestone’ birthdays tend to be momentous.

Last year, when I told my soon-to-be-retired ophthalmologist that I was nearly 60, he chuckled and remarked that once you hit 60, those ‘milestones’ are every five years instead of every ten years. Yikes, I thought.

But he was (partially) right. There are fewer decades left. I’ve seen too many friends die too soon, dammit.

My pal Christine DePetrillo asks every Friday online, “What are you celebrating?” Some Fridays I don’t have an answer, but it’s not because I’m a pessimist. Yesterday I thought, well, I’m celebrating my birthday this weekend. Sixty-one is as much a celebration as sixty, maybe even more so.

So, I jumped waves at the beach today with my husband, sang along to songs on the radio, accepted lots of well wishes (thank you!) and will indulge in something sweet after dinner tonight. It’s all worth celebrating.

People of the Small Point


NarragansettRI.gov
NarragansettRI.gov

Native American names abound throughout the United States, especially here in tiny Rhode Island. A small town whose population nearly doubles during the summer, the name ‘Narragansett‘ is actually an English corruption of the Algonquin tribal name Nanhigganeuck, which means ‘people of the small point.’

East Matunuck photo by M. Reynolds
East Matunuck
photo by M. Reynolds

Matunuck (‘Mah-TOO-nick’) is a village set between Narragansett and Charlestown, whose name means ‘lookout.’ The Narragansett tribe used Matunuck as a summer encampment. The beaches at Matunuck and East Matunuck are both great, with direct exposure to the Atlantic Ocean.

charlestownri.org
charlestownri.org

Quonochontaug (go ahead, try it – okay, it’s ‘QUON-ah-kah-tawg’) might be hard to pronounce, but according to the American Indian Place Names page, Quonochontaug means ‘extended deserted place/two long ponds in succession.’ The photo above shows the breachway, which provides access to both Quonochontaug Pond and Block Island Sound. The pond is a large salt pond with many coves and channels to explore in a kayak or other small boat.

Misquamicut via commons.wikimedia.org
Misquamicut via commons.wikimedia.org

Almost in Connecticut, Misquamicut extends from Weekapaug to Watch Hill (all part of the town of Westerly). The area once known as ‘Pleasant View’ changed its name in 1928 to Misquamicut, an Indian name that means ‘red fish,’ a reference to the Atlantic salmon common to the Pawcatuck River. 

And if you didn’t know before reading this, now you know why Rhode Island is The Ocean State!

The Silence of Summer


I live in a quiet neighborhood of condos. There are few children, mostly older people or young singles and couples who don’t spend a lot of time at home. Quiet is good, especially for someone like me who is home a lot, writing, reading, thinking.

On Saturday morning, I took a walk up the hill and into another neighborhood, this one filled with houses and lawns. Families and kids. It was a beautiful day on the cusp of summer. And it was quiet.

Where was the hissing of summer lawns? The shouts of kids playing on swing sets and jungle gyms?

The jingle of the ice cream truck?

Oh hot summer days, windows are closed and there’s only the hum of air conditioners. Porches are empty – no one sits outside with a glass of cold lemonade, relishing the evening breeze. Too hot, too buggy. Quiet. The silence of summer.

The Eight Months of Chocolate Takes a Respite


Because it’s too hot! This past week, I received a package from one of my junior-year-abroad friends who had traveled back to Switzerland on business. I knew this because he posted some lovely photos on Facebook, and (of course) I hinted at my favorite Swiss chocolate bar, one that can’t be bought here in the USA.

swiss chocolate bars DV

He’s a good guy, and sent me two! My husband and I dug into the Giandor first, but we’re saving the Frigor. Saving it for what? Christmas? Hey, it’ll be gone by the next blog post.

Anyway, it’s getting too hot for chocolate, isn’t it? The Giandor was a little soft. So take a break! We all know that the Halloween candy will be back on the shelves as soon as the munchkins are back in school this fall. And thus begins another round of the Eight Months of Chocolate. October through May – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, after-Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day. Any excuse to sell/buy/consume it. Aren’t you chocolated out by now?

Strawberry Ice Cream Cone
Strawberry Ice Cream Cone

Take a break from chocolate. It’s ice cream season!

And in case you were wondering, I have limited my sugar intake tremendously.

 

Paris Between the Wars – “H” is for Florence Henri


A2Z-BADGE 2016-smaller_zpslstazvib

Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Florence Henri
Florence Henri

Born in New York in 1893 to a French father and a Polish mother, Florence’s mother died when the little girl was 2, and her father died when she was only 15. She went to live with acquaintances, first in Rome, then in Berlin, and in 1924, at age 31, she moved to Paris. Trained as a painter, by 1928 she had abandoned painting in favor of becoming a free-lance photographer. Many of her photographs incorporate mirrors.

Up to the start of World War II, Henri established herself as a skilled photographer with her own photographic studio in Paris. When the city was occupied by the Nazis, her photographic work declined. The photographic materials needed were difficult to obtain, and Henri’s photographic style was forbidden under the Nazi occupation. She turned back to painting. With only a few later exceptions, the peak of her unique photographic experiments and professional photographic work was in the period from 1927 to 1930.

FlorenceHenri_03_CompositionFlorenceHenri_11_FemmeAuxCartes

“What I want above all,” Henri said near the end of her long life, “is to compose the photograph as I do with painting. Volumes, lines, shadows and light have to obey my will and say what I want them to say. This happens under the strict control of composition, since I do not pretend to explain the world nor to explain my thoughts.”

László Moholy-Nagy, a contemporary, said: “With Florence Henri’s photos, photographic practice enters a new phase – the scope of which would have been unimaginable before today. Above and beyond the precise and exact documentary composition of these highly-defined photos, research into the effects of light is tackled not only through abstract photograms, but also in photos of real-life subjects.”

Goodbye, July


East Matunuck Beach and Jerusalem  photo by M. Reynolds
East Matunuck Beach and Jerusalem photo by M. Reynolds

Look, it’s not like I hate summer. I don’t. But this month was killer, with that heat wave that blanketed us (yes, like a thick, hot fleece blanket on your sweaty skin) earlier in the month. Some of my friends would take that kind of weather all year long. Sure, if you don’t have to go to the office, deal with overheated drivers and cranky, hot kids. Deal with dinner, every night. Know that your electric bill is going to be sky-high because you had to run the A/C all the time. But no, I don’t hate summer.

It’s just that I love fall. That first day when the morning air is…different. Cooler. Drier. You know it’s coming. One of my friends tears up on that day, and again when the first leaves drop from their branches. I dance around the kitchen. I make oatmeal. I open the door to the closet and stare at my long-sleeved shirts, my fleece zip-ups. I open my sock drawer and say “Soon, soon. Just a couple more weeks.”

The other day my husband and I were driving home down a lovely road. The heat had broken and our car windows were open. The road was lined with big trees, leafy and green. And the shadows were long. At five-thirty. He said, “Look! The shadows are long!” We grinned at each other.

So we’ll head back to the beach this afternoon to enjoy another summer afternoon. Because it’s summer, and we’re lucky.

amyandisabelleI finished reading “Amy and Isabelle” by Elizabeth Strout. What an excellent book; it’s still resonating with me. My friend Kim tells me I should do book reviews here. I don’t know, what do you think? I don’t usually read books as soon as they’re released (“Amy and Isabelle” was published in 2000). Maybe highlighting a book once a week would be good practice for me. And I’d be able to share with you a really good book. So, maybe.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish up the first draft of my book about a 25-year high school reunion. I’ve set a deadline for myself, because that seems to work. By mid-August, I want to have it out to my beta readers. While it’s out, I’ll revise “Bittersweet Chocolate,” the manuscript I completed this month during Camp Nano. Juggling! But it keeps me busy, and before I know it, September will be here. So goodbye to July for 2013 – and bring on August!

Lake? Beach? Um, toilet?


www.630wpro.com
http://www.630wpro.com

A place called Spring Lake Beach makes you think of a refreshing respite from this miserable heat we’ve experienced lately here in Rhode Island. There are canoe and paddle boat rentals, children’s slides, a swim dock – everything that contributes to a day of family fun. Right?

Well, on this past Fourth of July, more than 90 people were affected by a gastrointestinal illness after swimming in the lake. Here in the Ocean State, the waters are tested regularly for safe swimming. Sometimes certain beaches, especially those without a regular turnover of water (no waves), or due to rain or sewer runoff, are closed for a few days until levels are back to normal. In this case, the Rhode Island Health Department Director announced that a human pathogen known as Shigella was probably spread throughout the lake from the feces of maybe just one swimmer. News reports indicated it was likely a parent bringing a diapered infant into the water.

Spring Lake Beach is in the northwestern corner of the state, and fed by a spring, not the Atlantic Ocean. The more popular beaches lie along the southern shore of the state all the way down to the Connecticut border, and on Aquidneck Island. These beaches have good surf, and when you swim, you’re swimming in the ocean.

A few days ago, during this heat wave, my husband and I headed south in the afternoon. Because we’re the smallest state, nothing is ever that far away. For us, it’s about a 40-minute drive to Narragansett and the beaches. I packed sandwiches and soft drinks, loaded a couple of chairs and towels into the car, and off we went.

Ahhh! At least ten degrees cooler at 4:00 pm. There were still plenty of people on the beach, and who could blame them? Driving back north to Providence or elsewhere in the state was something no one looked forward to doing.

As I cracked open one of the three novels I’m reading, my husband padded through grainy sand to the water’s edge. He kept his feet wet and cool, and walked almost the entire length of the beach, but when he returned, he told me that he didn’t think the water was very clean and “it was pretty stinky.”

Oh man, I thought, I’m not going anywhere near it. The outbreak at Spring Lake caused a total of 92 people to get sick. Sixteen of them, all kids, were hospitalized due to fever, cramping, and bloody diarrhea. Is this what we have to fear when we go swimming?

So my question is – who in their right mind would tote a not-yet-toilet-trained baby into the water? Who wouldn’t insist on everyone using the facilities before going into the water? I’m really trying to lose the pictures that have crept into my mind.

I actually feel sorry for the folks who run Spring Lake. This is the first time they’ve ever had a problem, but it’s hard to erase that knowledge. They don’t even allow gas-powered boats on the lake, to keep it clean. I’ve never been, but I bet it’s a really nice place.

And as much as I love the ocean, I think I’d rather swim in a pool these days. Maybe one of those salt-water pools.