Monthly Archives: January 2016


"Three Finger" Evergreens

“Three Finger” Evergreens

From my bedside, facing a window, I often look upon a row of stately evergreen and pine trees, their branching needles filled with squirrel and bird nests. The morning of this writing, the impending storm sky as backdrop, outlines the green branches; stillness abides.

Three nights ago, room pitch-black, about to doze off and facing this very window, I was startled by the appearance of a large three-fingered hand illuminated by an ethereal backlight on the closed window shade.

For the prior five days, I had been under siege with a head cold, every minute taken up with bailing out the endless fluids clogging my mind and membranes. For an instant, I did not trust my senses. A hand, with three feathery-like fingers and a spindly wrist, seemed like an apparition. I had no fever. I was not hallucinating. My imagination went straight to science fiction and movies. Could it be a space ship in hover-mode? Aliens? The backlit light seemed ethereal; yes, other-world.

I put the light on and tried to roust Marv, who was sound asleep. “You’ve got to look at what’s at the window.”

I doused the light; he turned to look. The hand seemed even more alive, as if it could leap out. “Interesting,” he said.

“What do you think it is?”

Silence. Marv had fallen back to sleep.

I gathered myself, stepped from bed to the sill and lifted the shade halfway. Mystery solved with nary an alien ship in sight. The moon, full and radiant, had risen and settled a tad above and behind the row of trees. I wondered if this could be nature’s version of shadow art.

I closed the shade, to once again confront the spindly hand. Closeup, I noticed how the layering of tiny bristle shapes formed the foundation of each finger. I was instantly grateful; imaginings were just imaginings. The evergreen branch was shaped similar to a hand. But still, to make certain, I repeated the ritual, lifting the shade to peer again at the moon, to embrace its familiar glimmer, to settle my nerves further.

Imagination is powerful at night, especially with clogged senses. But more, it was the unexpected apparition in my safe bedroom, the too close presence of a 2 by 5 foot image that spooked me. Afterwards, I returned to bed  with gratitude for my wiser self, the part that compelled me to get a grip, slide onto the cold floor and crack the shade in search of an explanation.

Next morning, I opened the shade eager to find the three-fingered branch, the model for nature’s moon-caste shadow art. I followed the tree line straight up in my line of vision. The tallest tree pointed skyward; the image, seared in my mind, leapt out. Thanks to the grace of daylight, I identified the three needled “finger” branches, rising above the others, splayed and soaring. It was a definite match.


Anti-Idling Logo

Anti-Idling Logo

As I write this, I am faced with a dilemma. I live in a wide roofed, split entry house surrounded on three sides by mature, sun reaching oaks, maples and American Beech trees.

Every fall, each leaf-bearing tree has its own rhythm of retreat. The maples caste off thick and firm yellow, red and orange leaves, whereas the oak leaves turn russet and curl at the edges while the abundant American Beech thin out to a papery beige with the feel of tissue.

October winds funnel down the forested back hill casting bowers of leaves up and onto the roof, across the back patio, along the driveway. Caste-off leaves on land are no problem. We rake. We pile the leaves onto a tarp and drag them to a kind neighbor’s compost pile. The flight-born leaves settle into gutters; they require helpers with good balance and sturdy ladders to scoop out the debris.

On the first day of frigid temperatures, the roof cleaners arrived. It’s my practice to greet helpers, to ascertain the job. I exited the side door to encounter their high paneled truck with the engine on, idling in the driveway. The cab was empty; two men were already at work on the roof.

My dilemma was immediate. Do I yell up to them on the roof? Do I shout out the effects of idling, that 10 minutes of an exhaust’s idling pours one pound of carbon dioxide— a harmful greenhouse gas—into our atmosphere?

In the two minutes it took to climb the steps, I chickened out. I had been waiting for the roofer to send these men since late July to seal the seam of a glass roof panel. Today’s gig was to complete that additional task. I was grateful these men had come. It was bitter cold. I understood their need to hunker down in a warm cab after facing a blasting wind at roof’s edge.

Was it my job to educate these men about idling? I came away thinking if I were to speak to anyone, it needed to be the owner. His truck was in violation of the Massachusetts Anti-Idling Law, which limits unnecessary engine idling to five minutes. I had no timer on that day but surmise the idling lasted for at least fifteen minutes, maybe more.

I’m not a comfortable whistle blower. I’ve met the owner. He may have no awareness of the law. According to WCAP, The Wakefield Climate Action Project, the anti-idling law is rarely enforced or publicized on the local level. They suggest I send an e-mail to to show support. Following that, they recommend I tell town officials that I promote the enforcement of the anti-idling law by sending e-mails and attending town meetings. This sounds do-able and right to me.

Thus far, 19 states have enacted anti-idling laws. I am grateful to be reminded how a simple turn of the ignition key can make a difference, how one simple step can contribute to our planet’s sustainability, how writing this post might inspire others.

Mom’s Tomato Meatball Soup


tomato soup with tiny meatballs, 2016

tomato soup with tiny meatballs, 2016

Mom’s tomato soup with tiny meatballs was no ordinary tomato soup; it was soup steeped in love, the love of cooking, standing over a simmering pot of redness, tasting as she curled her tongue along her lower lip.

Circa 1944, a time in elementary school when I came home for lunch to join the entire family, even dad. Mom’s tomato soup with tiny meatballs was a winter’s day soup, savory and tart with a tad of sweetness underneath.

Just yesterday, I simmered a newer version, the addition of a carton of organic beef broth, suggested by my younger sister who uses actual beef or chicken bones to make the stock. We have the same mother and one would think that since we are only two years and nine months apart that we would have the same recipe; but that was not the case.

On the occasion of preparing the soup for a friend with recent surgery, I pulled out the recipe from my “Tried and True” green metal box. The first ingredient, a cause for laughter, was a 15cent can tomato juice. The recipe is written in my small twenties script, likely 1956 around the time I married and gathered recipes in a pre-nuptial, preparatory panic.

I cannot remember, but assume that a 15cent can of tomato juice equaled a quart. As a bride and young mother, I made Mom’s tomato soup frequently. But never before this past week did I enhance it with beef stock.

Did it make a difference? Nutrition-wise, of course the broth enriched the protein and B12 content. But taste-wise? How to explain the sense of greater depth, a shift away from the bracing acidity, all of which created a richer sensation for the palate?

My note of a 15cent can stirred a pot full of memory: Mom and I in the kitchen a week before my marriage, Mom dictating recipes she was certain my future husband would enjoy while I wrote, one recipe after the other, on 3×5 cards. The tomato soup card seems hurried with clipped directions, probably why I left off the broth.

I’m glad I checked with my sister and updated the recipe with the flavor of beef and a little sugar.

I’m glad my friend savored the soup and hope, in some way, it added to her healing.

It is so rare that I take out the red enamel stockpot. I am grateful to have made a vat, enough extra for several lunchtime servings for my husband, my daughter and granddaughter.

Mom always made extras. It’s no wonder I have so many kitchen memories like Walter the blind broom salesman with a cane who came by the back door once a year. In my minds eye, he forever sits at the kitchen table, bent over a steaming bowl of soup, quiet in his gratitude.

Sisterhood: My Women’s Group & Our Stories

25 th anniversary - Version 2

I begin with gratitude to Andrea Davies, a new and younger friend, for her Facebook post of Robert Waldinger’s Ted talk on “Lessons from the Longest Study on Happiness.” The study of octogenarian men over their lifetime concludes that relationships— those we can rely upon for support and connection over time—can help buffer life’s inevitable personal and physical challenges.

As a female octogenarian, I can attest to the wisdom of friendship and its effects on well-being. When I turned fifty, after twenty-five years of maintaining a psychotherapy practice and my children near grown, I asked myself, “What can I do now that I’ve done it all?” The question was both naïve and sincere and pointed to my state of mind. I felt lost, that something was missing. In truth, I had dedicated time to my husband, my children, my parents and clients but took little time to develop intimate relationships with friends.

Six years later, a neighbor and walking friend, Bev Bader, invited me to join a women’s group. Nine of us spanning thirteen years in age, all married with children and careers, convened. I was the oldest by six years. The commonality of approaching middle age with present or impending transitions bonded us.

Over the course of twenty-seven years, eight of us have continued to meet monthly with two months off during summer. We meet for two and a half hours, in a circle, and divide the time equally for each attendee to tell her story. I recall my nervousness those start-up years when my turn came to state aloud what I wanted and needed in my personal life. As a therapist, I was a listener with responsibility to guide, to help. As a group member, I was vulnerable, sharing aspirations and struggles for which I often had no answers and needed feedback.

I learned, over time, that others could help with perspective and offer support. Bev, Rosemary, Janet, Claudine, Carol, Joan and Eva have walked beside me through the launch of my adolescent children, their choice of spouses, the birth of five grandchildren, my husband’s heart episode, the decision to retire and close my therapy practice, my longing and quest to become a writer, my return to school for an MFA in creative writing.

At age seventy-five, I graduated from Pine Manor’s Solstice MFA program in creative writing. As I looked out at the familiar faces of family and friends, I was aware that the fulfillment of my long journey to become a writer was, in great part, due to the unswerving support and encouragement of my husband and friends.

I am grateful for the nurturance and sustaining friendship of my woman’s group. What we give and what we take are found in the telling of our stories, the trust that comes from the circle. We are, in truth, lifelong sisters.