Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Cape Cod Lilac

A little tour of my brother and sister-in-law's garden in Arbutus, MD, May 2007

Longstanding tradition normally finds me landing in Baltimore this week of the year, to visit my brother and his wife, and to attend the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival at the Baltimore County Fairgrounds. The drive from the airport is always alight with flowering azaleas, dogwoods and assorted other blooming trees, but the most beautiful sight is the garden which greets me at the home of my brother and wife. Lots of hard work and love go in to making their garden a favorite stopping spot for passers-by, and if you look carefully into the low front hedges, there just may be a cat curled up sound asleep in his little cave he has created....that would be my feline nephew, Mikey!
There is one very special blossoming bush in their garden which we call the Cape Cod Lilac (pictured behind this blog title). About 15 years ago, my brother and wife were visiting me at my home at the time in Sandwich, the oldest town on Cape Cod. We took frequent walks to look at gardens and the beautiful seaside views, and one day, as we passed a vacant house very near mine, we dared to walk in to the gardens, long neglected, obviously once very loved, and filled with unusual plantings. Amidst the overgrowth was a beautiful lilac bush with the largest blossoms we had ever seen on a lilac. My brother & wife have extensive knowledge of flowers and declared they must have a cutting.....did we dare to do this from someone else's property without permission??? Well, after acquiring some Rootone and a container, we stealthily returned and the deed was done. The lilac cutting was on its way to Baltimore to see if it would propagate successfully. As is evidenced in the picture above, it is now a tall tree-like bush and delighting all with its beauty and rarity. The heady scent fills the house on every breeze. Disease threatened it several years ago but new shoots continue to thrive. It is in the front garden next to Henry, a prolific white clematis winds up the trunk and displays his showy blooms on the top leaves of a brilliant red Japanese maple. A beautiful contrast of color.

This year I will miss this garden, the always-delightful visit, the Sheep and Wool, the warmth, as well as our traditional watching of the Kentucky Derby. My life has taken a lot of twists and turns this year and for many reasons, I need to stay home, work, and be here for LM.
Nonetheless, my heart will be partly in Baltimore this weekend and I know my SIL will visit Sheep and Wool and buy lots of yarn and goodies as a tribute to all our good times. The pictures above are even more meaningful this year. They will sustain me as this weekend passes.

LM had a follow-up Dr visit today and he is thriving! We are so grateful and happy. There still remains cardio rehab but he awaits an 8:30 am time slot and they are hard to come by. We are still walking through the dark forest of emotions, talking often about the impact of what happened, and trying to find a comfortable place in amongst the remaining rubble of disbelief. There is progress each day and new bricks go into our foundation, our deep love and devotion holding them fast.
If anyone reading is in the Baltimore area, don't miss the Sheep & Wool Festival. It has broad appeal with all the interesting sheep, alpacas, llama, bunnies, etc, as well as amazing exhibits of handcrafted items, showcasing the talents of needle artists/knitters/crocheters from around the country. The yarn and supplies for sale are amazing, and jewelry and other handcrafts are offered by vendors from near and far. To be able to buy yarn from the source is a very satisfying feeling. There is great food and the working/herding dog demonstrations are fascinating. Directions and more info is available...just GOOGLE Maryland Sheep & Wool.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Perfect Peace

The Dock to Peace

The view from the bench

The sky and its reflection in the water

It is not often these days when one can find a place where peace can be sustained for any length of time, except in your heart if you allow it!
On the way back from Florida in January, LM and I stopped to visit a lifelong friend of his in Wilmington, NC. From their lovely home along the Cape Fear River, we were able to walk to the dock in less than a minute. It was very still and the warm air felt soft and embracing as we stopped to lean over the railing and enjoy the reflection of the sky and clouds in the water. As our eyes adjusted beneath the reflection on the surface, we could see all sorts of fascinating movement on the ocean floor. The tide was falling and oyster beds were emerging, creating interesting swirls and eddies. We made our way to the bench and sat for at least an hour, savoring every moment of the peace which had overtaken our spirits. Holding hands, sun on our faces, rarely uttering a word, we gazed out toward Cape Fear and the tip of the Outer Banks, but kept coming back to what was happening right in front of us as the tide continued to drop and more of the oyster beds and other sea life were revealed. Our focus was able to stay fully on what was happening right there.....we savored every tiny movement, every scent, birdsong and rustle of the marsh grasses. It was very intense communion with nature, peace and our love.
We still talk about that special morning and remember it as one of our favorite moments on the trip.
Back to today....I had to go to an appointment in Hyannis this morning so LM asked if we could meet somewhere on my way back. For 10 minutes on this most beautiful sunny, warm Spring day, we sat amidst the chaos of a busy parking lot, sun on our faces, holding hands and felt the same peace we had in NC, soon I was back to work feeling as though I was floating on a cloud. It didn't even matter when my boss asked me to stay late to do some extra work.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On the Road Again/Scenes from the Weekend

Fun and games Ms. G and LM style......winding down another lovely Sunday together; our good-byes were softened with a few minutes of love and fun with her royal highness.
We made a few more babysteps in our relationship this weekend and philosophically discussed the fact that at times I feel like progress is not being made, but in reality bigger things are happening to build a stronger foundation for our love. Being able to talk about the distance I feel at times, really helps. LM is so easy to be with and so willing to talk about the ramifications of all that has happened these past few months. He is still shaking out all the demons himself.
Today I realized it makes sense not to be trying to get back to where we were before LM's "coming back from death" experience, but instead to go forward toward the new life ahead. We had amazing adventures, made memories which we still like to sink our teeth into, and were given a gift of six incredible months of sheer bliss, deep passion, finding a love which is now carrying us over the hurdles to a different place.
Yesterday we made the car pick-up in Connecticut and it was the most beautiful day. We drove down on the highways and back through country roads, stopping to have a picnic on the roadside in the 80 degree weather. We came though areas I had never seen before which are just so picturesque....Coventry, Brooklyn and many other quaint and historic CT towns. Last night we took a long walk through Chatham Village, walked on an old wooden bridge across a marsh to look at a careful restoration my company is doing of an historic house in the Old Village, then got to the lighthouse just as the moon was rising over the Atlantic. It was twilight and the moon was very pink at first. We stood for a long time hugging and taking in the golden reflection of the moon on the water before making the walk back to the car. The perfect ending to our day!
Sometime in the night last night, LM turned in bed and held me, and whispered "I love you" in my ear.....not even knowing if I was awake. Once again I am reminded of what a gift he is in my life.

Daughter Anne: If you read this you cannot tell J & A that you did!!

LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST.....my son called this morning to ask us to stop by and see their garden which is beautiful right now (even if the deer are stopping by to munch on the pansies and grape hyacinths). We arrived about noon and did a lovely garden walk, then we sat down to have a cold drink and share some lovely fruit. Suddenly my dear daugther-in-law made a very special announcement......they are expecting their first child in early December. This child has been awaited for many years and could not be coming into a more wonderful home! I am on cloud 9!

Friday, April 18, 2008

LM Update

Without even realizing it fully, life has almost come back to normal for us and I haven't written about LM's remarkable progress.
Today he visited his cardiologist, Dr Wolfe (yes, we are going to do our best to keep him from the door!). The report was great, although exercise needs to become a priority. I am hopeful that the cardiac rehab program which begins in a few weeks, will help with building a regular pattern of exercise. LM has found out that niacin deficiency may be a major underlying cause of the tremendous plaque build-up in his heart. The Dr gave him a drug for niacin replacement but he is going to try doing it nutritionally as the side effects from the drug are awful.

Otherwise, LM is back to work full-time, and teaching two nights a week, and working tirelessly for the benefit of recreational fishermen in MA. It is wonderful and his attention to a carefully planned diet is amazing. I would also say that he is in great shape emotionally, too. We do spend time each weekend talking a bit about the impact of all that happened but my tears have stopped and being together is getting back to our usual rhythm.

We had so much wonderful love and support around us that it seems this can be the only possible outcome and we are eternally grateful.

Tomorrow we are off to Connecticut to swap a car for the local Chevrolet dealer. These trips are really fun and we get to see many new places....adventures are just our favorite thing.

PS...LM is more then ever in the good graces of Ms. G. Happy girl and lots of purring and adoring looks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Village and Lighthouse Beach Early Morning

Sun lighting the water at the east end of Water St

Chatham Coast Guard Station

Lighthouse Beach

Walking down Main Street in the Village

These are some photos taken this morning on a walk through the village and then round to the lighthouse and Lighthouse Beach which looks directly east to the Atlantic. It is the most popular place in Chatham.
As you can see there are lots of pansies adorning the village shops as I mentioned in an earlier post. Once summer arrives, Main St is teeming with people almost 24 hrs a day.
I love arriving at the Village Market to shop with all the flowers lined up out front....smiling pansy faces in the early morning sun.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Spring Pays a Visit

As I stepped out of my office into the warm sun at noon today, I could suddenly smell spring. Gardens have been raked, new mulch is down, daffodils are everywhere and even a few tulips are waving in the breeze! I was able to drive home at lunch with the car windows down...ahhhhhh, spring's relief from winter.
The pots, urns and flower boxes of pansies are beginning to adorn many of the shops on Main Street in the village; a destination for people from all over the world, Chatham wakes up beautifully from the long winter's sleep we are given here. I just love our village; we even have a great old-fashioned 5 & 10 in which you can find just about anything you need, and there is not a big box store in sight. It makes me so happy when I can just drive to the village for something I need to accomplish a chore or finish a creative project, and I can buy groceries at our Village Market, year round, which is owned by local people and happy to sell locally grown items, when available. The architecture is carefully preserved and treasured. In the winter at least half the shops are closed and now as the pansies appear, businesses are freshening up and open, at least on the weekends, and soon the throngs of visitors will fill the streets and the sounds of the band concerts will be heard on Friday nights.
This is a beautiful place to be, and as I took in a deep breath of Spring today, I felt very, very fortunate to breathe it here, and even more fortunate that LM breathes it with me now!
I promise to get some pictures of Main St soon!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Different Perspective on old Haunts

Saturday is usually my day to drive the nearly 200 mile round trip to spend time with my Dad. I try to incorporate shopping on these trips because things are much less expensive off-Cape. It makes for a very long day after working a very busy 40 hour week with frequent evening obligations, as well. Sometimes, as was the case this week, I am exhausted when the weekend starts but just have to pull it together in order not to disappoint Dad.

The weather forecast sounded grim this morning as I prepared to leave my house by 8 or so and we were having a noisy thunder storm with driving rain, but, the further I drove toward the bridges which leave the Cape, the clearer the skies became, WOMR played great 50's music and I was waking up. By the time I got to Plymouth the skies were beautifully clear and the sun was warm on my face. Stopped at Macy's for a few things, then headed on to meet Dad about noon. He was in such fine fettle today....ready to go out and more than ready to see the beach, but not until we had lunch at a very popular Hingham restaurant, Stars. It is a former diner and has been on the Hingham harbor area since I can remember, as I went there many times with my grandparents. With great joy I watched Dad polish off a wonderful fried clam dinner (I had a small amount of plain lobster on lettuce and a cup of divine mushroom soup). This is all such a wonderful turn of events as Dad has been in failing health for some time and unable to even leave his apartment at the assisted living facility where he has been for almost a year. I will gladly take this day, tired as I was, as a beautiful gift. To see him enjoy a meal and be out and about is a treat.

After lunch, the ride to see all Dad's favorite sights at Nantasket Beach was in store. My job was to stay awake! First we stopped at my brother's house to drop some things off....knew they would not be home but Dad's friend, Bob the Cat was there and came right to the car door and climbed in to greet Dad. Very sweet. Next, as I contemplated the very familiar route we would take to the beach, I asked myself how I could make this time different. This sounds all too simple a story, but I just decided to drive the route in reverse and see all our familiar sites from the opposite view. It was so interesting that we were both exclaiming all the way, suddenly Dad was full of the entire history of the area and he shared memories of his times there as a child, all the old huge wooden hotels which used to dot the areas around the piers, right down to all the names, and many other historical facts. He described how the summer guests would arrive on the paddlewheel boats with their huge steamer trunks and "household help", and even talked about their dress. His words were clear enough that I could see the women walking along the boardwalk by the beach in their long dresses, shielding their faces with parasols. We also saw houses we have never noticed. Driving "the wrong way", I noticed more than ever, the number of "painted-lady" Victorian homes, so many of them lovingly restored now and surrounded by beautiful gardens. These neighborhoods are mostly on very steep hills and have incredible 360 views of outer Boston Harbor and the city beyond. We drove by the carefully preserved carousel, and stopped for a minute to watch some families enjoying a ride on this perfectly beautiful day, and Dad recalled taking us on that same "merry-go-round". There were also some surfers to watch, as the storms were still lurking off-shore.
After many more surprises around new corners, we delightedly headed back to drop Dad off so he could attend the Saturday movie at his place. It is heart warming to see him enjoying life.
This day says it all.....a new perspective can bring beautiful vistas.

I am home, somewhat refreshed after a shower and some green tea, and LM is on his way here to spend tonight and tomorrow....and best of all, he says he is delighted to be with MS G and me, no matter how tired I am.....ahhhhhhhh!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Healing Garden

Today LM called me at work to excitedly tell me he saw forsythia in bloom, its brilliant yellow lighting up the roadside somewhere in RI. He was on a work related trip which took him through Newport and he was reveling in the beauty. Flowers and trees bloom earlier off-Cape. We must wait until May or June.

In reflecting on the healing process which has been prevailing in our lives lately, LM and I find it all begins in nature for us....whether it is at the beach, contemplating the sky with unusual cloud formations, watching the bizarre weather which can happen out here on Cape Cod's elbow, rain and wind in the night, the peepers in Spring, or in gardens, there is salve for the soul in every sound, scent and view in nature.

13 years ago I moved into a delightful cottage behind this charming Cape Cod house owned by dear friends Anne & Don. Gardens of local reknown surround this enchanted place that I had the honor of sharing for 5 years, 1995-2000. The offer to live there was a clear case of what happens when one takes charge of their own life and makes a healthy decision. After 18 years with an alcoholic, and two successful battles with cancer, I needed to leave the marriage, or go down with its ship. It was not a popular plan with my husband but I made it a choice for me, with no idea of where I would live.
Within weeks after my decision, my friends offered me the cottage for as long as I needed it, at a very reasonable rent which included all my utilities, a warm welcome for my two cats at the time, Pillage & Plunder (yes, they earned their names), and the most loving environment conceivable, but the piece de resistance was living in this beautiful garden, alive with birds and flowers, cats and wild animals, which attracts a steady stream of admirers nearly year round.

Before I moved in, they redecorated the cottage with all my needs in mind, some lovely antiques, oriental rugs, an all new bathroom. The day of the move there was a hurricane looming but all was deftly accomplished with the help of my son, my landlords/friends, and my dearest friend, Sue. My emotions were raw as the last of my things were taken from the home I shared with my about-to-be-ex-husband and my dear son held me as I sobbed, but, soon I arrived at the cottage to find flowers cut in a beautiful vase and a note of welcome. By nightfall, everything was perfectly arranged, Sue made my bed so comfy and even brought me a lovely plant - healing began, and I sank in to sleep as the hurricane began to how l- nature brought me a distraction of grand proportions!. The next day there was no power and I rested and reflected on this huge change in my life. It felt so RIGHT. The cottage was small and to this day I feel best with small spaces around me. Everyday, I walked through the gardens to check on growth, just as my own growth was only beginning. Frequently, the owner, Anne, would walk the garden with me and I would sit by the grape arbor and share tea with her as we reflected on our lives. She is an artist, weaver, musician, tireless library and school volunteer, but everyday year round she is in her garden, and it is her most beautiful accomplishment.
So many changes took place in my life at the enchanted cottage. I began intense counseling, I found my creativity in many ways, and sometimes, I just sat for hours and watched the orioles build their nest in the apple tree (pictured at top of blog) outside my living room window -the orioles returned as soon as the trees began to blossom every year. I learned to love being alone, and found a calm place in my spirit which had been consumed for so many years by the tension of trying to bring peace amidst the chaos of alcoholism. Now I could contemplate an oriole fetching pieces of silk yarn (remnants of Anne's weaving projects scattered about for just this purpose) and weaving it into exquisite hanging nests. There was also the sweet Carolina wren who raised a little family in a homemade birdhouse just outside my door. Behind my cottage was a beautiful meadow and beyond that a peach orchard. I was totally surrounded by beauty and love in that enchanted place. Love came to me there after awhile - a safe love in the form of a beloved family friend - a man whom I had grown up laughing and sharing many important events with. For awhile it was another of the gifts of the enchanted cottage. Sadly, that relationship didn't last but this time I had the self-worth to end things when it just didn't feel right. We remain devoted friends to this day, probably loving each other more for the time we had then.
The back left corner of the enchanted garden had paths leading through the woods and in late spring the pathways were alight with azaleas and rhododendrons, a primrose garden and a fascinating collection of endangered wildflowers which grow best in the woods. On the edge of the woods, next to a glorious butterfly bush, Anne had a fancifully painted mailbox in which the garden faeries left mail for her mystified grandchildren...such fun.
Leaving the enchanted cottage was very painful for me but I took a leap of faith to a different life....a story for another day.....if I hadn't healed in that magical place, that microcosm of nature's beauty, I would not be where I am today, and this is something I would not have wanted to miss: living and working in my dream town, being loved like never before, and again surrounded by the source of my strength, nature.

Anne built this side garden (below) while I was living in the cottage and it is so amazing. People come from everywhere to see it in spring. She built it as a way to heal after her dearest friend died. 90% of the plants are from her friend's garden. I go back to visit often and we always end the visit with a walk through and remembrance. A thing of immeasurable beauty......love!

As a little aside, and an indicator of Anne's big heart, she runs the Saturday fundraiser book sale at her local library, and has done so for 20+ years. Her best helper is the husband I divorced just as I moved in to the cottage. She has been very good to him, too. We are all friends.
This whole interlude flashed back to me today, as LM shared his forsythia siting!! Joy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Are They Gullible Enough to Believe Spring is Coming to Cape Cod

Welcome to to the overlook at Lighthouse Beach in Chatham. Each morning I visit here to enjoy this beautiful view, meditate and give thanks. Right now it is still really wintry feeling and it was too cold and windy to even get out of the car for long on Sunday when I caught these two local denizens assessing the shifting sands we live on. They are looking at the waves breaking over newly created North Beach Island which came in to being a year ago when a storm broke through a very long barrier beach which protects most of North Chatham from the open Atlantic. The island and its few family camps are washing away in multiple feet everyday. That is the way life is here on Cape Cod where change is very visible. I love it.....living on this edge of the sea. The raw beauty of nature moving and changing the sand just the way she wants. It makes life very interesting. I found the juxtaposition of the gulls and the "no parking longer than 30 minute sign" quite appropriate as if you stay too long here, the beach, and parking lot could be gone....that parking lot is a mere shadow of what it was when I was a child, or back in the 80's for that matter. I have seen many many houses washed away by the ocean here, as well. Cannot say it is not a dramatic place to live, dramatically beautiful!
When my children were little we often camped on or near beaches and used to love watching seagulls and comparing them to our lilac point siamese cat Purrsi, as he had a way of perching himself and looking around with what we thought were seagull attributes. As a little inside joke I leave this note for daughter, Anne....two purrches, purrching on a purrch purch....she'll know.

P.S. Three days before LM had his heart attack we did a strenuous walk on this beach in a very cold and heavy wind. WHEW! Just to think, today he returned to working and he is the picture of health and happy as a lark. "Lovin' life," he says! Me, too!

Redemption at Last

A bit of smalltalk
Finally, the purring begins!

And that goes for all of us!! Saturday was a day of purrfection in our little world.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Almost Back from the Dogs

Liza and Sammy

My 6 days of caring for Liza and Sammy will end today - I am packing to return home to Ms. G and my doggie friends will be so happy to have their parents return this evening. They are a constant source of amusement for me when I am there but they did have to stay outside the door and wait while I had lunch each day in my beautiful sunny spot pictured above. Every time I would sit down to eat they would BOTH try to climb into my lap! Not quite possible but that did not stop the attempts. My dear boss and his wife have a beautiful home and I am always honored to stay there and share it many times during the year. Like a little vacation. It is not far from my house so I can spend time each day with Ms. G, as well.

LM joined me there on Friday evening and it was a sort of eerie time of finding our comfort spots with each other again. We watched several silly movies, laughing and holding each other closely on the couch, every once in awhile, we would look at each other and comment on how strange the past 7 weeks have been. LM is opening up about feelings and sharing the surreality of actually dying (and being brought back, of course) which haunts him, yet he catches himself quickly and pulls himself back to moving forward and savoring what we have. I notice a lot more smiles now.
Morning found our familiar banter and lightness of spirit emerging and Saturday was a happy, happy day in its normality. Later we shared a lovely walk. Despite the brisk north winds, it was totally quiet as we walked to the end of the doggies' country lane to look at the beach and water, and even though winter still has its grip on Cape Cod....LM noticed tiny buds on the beach rose shrubs which are so common here. HOPE! We are so blessed, and as LM warmed my hands in his, I had tears in my eyes when I recalled the near loss we have just been through and how very grateful I am to have his warmth, his life, his love.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Gone to the Dogs

Yes, I have gone to the dogs and Ms. G is unhappy...she will have to endure 6 days with just brief visits from me, as I have taken up residence at the home of my boss while he and his wife are in TX for a conference (and lots of fun, too). Their dogs, Liza (small black Lab) and Sammy (large yellow lab) will make a guest appearance here as soon as I can get some photos downloaded. I house sit for these critters quite often and it really is fun, not to mention being in their beautiful house, which affords me an easy walk to a beautiful beach on Pleasant Bay.

LM is doing splendidly and was officially discharged by his VNA nurse today. So now that he is no longer tethered to his telemetry machine, we will have more time together. Heavenly thoughts are floating through my mind knowing we will probably spend several days together this weekend. Meanwhile, he is catching up with a lot of things which have needed doing while he was recovering. He is even planning to begin working next week!!

So, Ms. Graysea's world will be a bit quiet for a few days, but she has beautiful sunshine to bask in and I will keep the dogs at bay.

On a serious note, a small town on Cape Cod suffered a tragedy last July 4th when a dearly loved son/friend/brother, Caleb Potter, was very seriously injured in a skate boarding accident. His valiant and eloquent mother has been writing a beautiful blog ever since and has chronicled many details of his recovery. It has been full of peaks and valleys. Sharyn Potter's blog can be found here.
People from around the world have been following her nearly daily posts creating a circle of love and encouragement in the comments. There is an entire town and larger community involved. Today Caleb and his family face an unthinkable tragedy and they all need as much support as possible. Caleb's father took his own life yesterday morning. Sending lots of positive thoughts and love their way.