Archives for the month of: March, 2014

smug interviewer,
so where do you see YOURself
in five freakin’ years??

Today I’m angry.

I’m angry with the smug fiftysomething man who interviewed me and asked in closing, with what seemed a mocking grin, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I made a face, “Three years. Where do you see yourself in three years?” He amended.

“Who still asks that question?” Is what I might have countered. What I wish I’d had the moxie and agility of intellect in the moment to do.IMG_2849

But really. Who still asks that question?

There was a time when I confidently replied, “In your job.” And I meant it. I really had.

And at that time, fourteen years ago, they asked, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” Because fourteen years ago, ten years seemed like a reasonable amount of time to make a life plan.

It’s telling that it’s down to five years. And even so? Five years…

What I’d like to tell this man, is that I haven’t had a framework for my life since 2008 when I was laid off from my last “real” job. The last job that felt like success. That looked like something I wasn’t embarrassed to say I did for a living. The last job that didn’t make me feel desperate to find something else. The last time I felt like an adult with direction.

And yes. Sometimes I feel quite adrift and hopeless without that framework.

But what has taken the place of that sturdy security?

Steely Alliance with Change. Any thought I had that I was “secure” has been washed away. My new best friend and confidant? Change. I can count on Change. Security was the popular person I thought I wanted to be best friends with. Change. Change is who I hang with now. We don’t have a real plan for where we’re headed. We make plans, Change and I, but then, well, you never know. Maybe we do them. Maybe we don’t. It’s all good.

Change is the kind of friend I’m slightly embarrassed to introduce to my friends and family. They too like the clean-cut looks of Security. Who doesn’t like beauty? Change has his own good looks – once you get past the messy mop of hair and beat-up leather jacket. He’s not derelict or anything. He doesn’t smell bad and isn’t unclean. He brushes and flosses regularly. He just doesn’t always present well, but that’s all on the surface.

I met Willow while hanging out with Change. She’s a dancer. She’s gorgeous and lithe and lean and yes, she hates to be called Weeping Willow. Don’t do it. Don’t even think it, or you’ll get an earful. I know I did. Thought I could just keep those thoughts in my head. But she’s intuitive that Willow. Hears you coming a mile away. She doesn’t tolerate negative thinking about herself or anyone else.

Really. It’s true. She literally can’t handle it. If you have negative thoughts around Willow, she’ll just dance away. It’s a gorgeous dance. And at first you’re tempted to have those negative thoughts just to watch the performance. Maybe you’re not even aware that it’s your thoughts causing it. Eventually though, either Willow or Change will clue you in.

But I’ve learned what’s better than the dance she does when you’re having negative thoughts. What’s better is when she dances with you. Since 2008, Willow has been teaching me the steps to a really amazing, beautiful dance called, Resilience.

I’ll be honest. I haven’t mastered the steps to Resilience. Not yet. Maybe never. Just when I think I’m beginning to get the hang of it, Willow will throw a little improv in there. Sometimes I’m able to follow her lead and sometimes I step on her toes. Willow never mocks or criticizes. Never. She’s gracious and encouraging. Always. That’s how I know I’m in her presence.

Security hangs out with Oak. And Oak is really mighty. Grows from a tiny acorn and all that. Super strong. I mean Superman strong. Like that. And you know, who doesn’t want strength in their life?

But in a major windstorm? Hurricaine force gale winds that threaten to blow you so far off course you wouldn’t recognize what galaxy you’re in? Well, as Ani Difranco says, “Whatever bends does not break.” I mean, who would you rather be cozied up to in a storm? Oak who is strong but rigid? Or Willow and her ability to not just withstand the wind, but dance with it?

I’m just saying…

The next interview I have, and I’m sure there will be another, there always is; I’m telling this story about where I’ll be in five years. I’m gonna tell them about my friends Change and Willow. And if they like it, maybe I’ll get a job. And if they don’t? I know I’ve met another person who’s met Change and blown him off for Security. No worries. We get it. Change isn’t for everyone.

galvanized buckets
slung like six-shooter holsters
on sugar maples

The week before last, I looked out the front window of our house to see a man standing in our driveway.  He carried something in his hands that I couldn’t quite identify.  Since we live on the premises of an historic property, we are used to strangers standing in our driveway.  It was sub-freezing weather and I was up to my elbows and eyebrows in a basement reorganization project so I went back to it.  A short while later I came up from the basement to ask my husband a question and he mentioned the guy in front of our house.

Copyright Seth Bond

Copyright Seth Bond

“Some guys are hanging maple syrup buckets on the trees out front.”

“They are?!  I wondered what that guy was doing out front.  I almost asked him, but it’s so cold.  Do you think they’d mind if I went to ask them about it?” A strange giddiness began to overtake me.

I was already struggling with my snow boots when my husband casually replied.

“Sure.  I already talked to them.  They probably wouldn’t mind.”

I had my coat on and was donning a hat and mittens.  I was out the door before he was.  I still had the width of the drive and some length of it to traverse when the question burst from me, “Hi!  I’m from Arizona.  This is only my second winter in New England.  Do you mind if I ask you some questions?  I’m really interested in what you’re doing!”  I felt like I was about seven years old again, struck with a mad curiosity about this seemingly quaint ritual taking place in my front yard.

Both men turned to look as my husband joined me. It was the younger one who spoke, “Sure, no problem.  We’re tapping the maple trees.” The guy began in an easy-mannered tone.  “These are sugar maples.  They’re the best ones to tap because they yield about a three percent return as opposed to black or red maples that only have a two percent return.”  He was so confident, yet casual, he continued, “It’ll take about forty gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup.”

I felt like I might as well have been talking to an astronaut, my front yard transformed to the surface of the Moon or Mars.  Awed I asked, “How can you tell this is a sugar maple?”

“By the bark, see how it’s lifting here,” he pointed out a place on the trunk nearest him where the bark curled up, “and the way the branches are shaped and taper.” He looked up at the naked arms of the tree reaching into the grey sky.

I followed his gaze trying to see what he was seeing, though I didn’t feel I had much success discerning the difference between the branches of the sugar maple and the tree next to it.

“How long will you leave the buckets up?” I asked.

“Well, this is an odd year because it’s been so cold,” he began. “Normally we would have tapped the trees on the 20th of February.  But we haven’t been above freezing, so we couldn’t.  This weekend,” his voice carried hope, “we are supposed to get into the 40s which is when the sap will start flowing.”  He smiled broadly and continued, “It has to get into the 40s during the day and freeze at night in order for the sap to flow. Once it stops freezing at night, we won’t be able to collect sap anymore because it will have stopped flowing.  The freeze/thaw cycle needs to be present for the sap to flow.  Typically, the sap stops flowing about the end of March.  But this is an odd year, so who knows.”

I watched as he tapped a spile into the tree trunk where he’d just drilled a hole. His friend followed up by hanging a galvanized metal bucket with a cover onto the spile. “How do you decide how many buckets to hang on each tree?” I asked, looking at the various number of sap holsters on the nearby trees.

“A tree has to be at least twelve inches in diameter to be tapped.  At about eighteen inches you can put two buckets on. And some really big, old trees that I can’t get my arms around, can have up to four buckets.”  He was very patient with his answers.

“How do you know where to tap?”

“You can see the big veins if you look at the shape of the tree.” He pointed this out on the tree he was tapping.

“Oh yeah…”

“We like tapping on the south side of the tree too, because that means more sun on it and a longer flow time during the day.” He offered up before they moved to the next tree. “We’ll come by at the end of the day to collect the sap.”

Despite the fact they’d kept working as I peppered them with questions, I felt I’d held them up long enough.  “Thanks for taking the time to tell us all about this!  It’s so neat to see it happening in our front yard.” I grinned like a fool and headed back to the warmth of the house.

The weather hasn’t gotten warm enough on most days since the inaugural tapping for the sap to flow every day.  On one forty-plus day, we returned from a walk in the late afternoon, and like a child checking for presents on Christmas morning, I ran to inspect the bucket nearest us, lifting it’s lid.  Sure enough, it held a small amount of clear liquid.  Having grown up around pine trees I expect sap to be sticky, slow moving and colored, I was surprised by its clarity and fluidity.

We stood in the stillness and listened, there was a quiet, persistent tap… tap… tap coming from the tree next to us.  I was awed by this singular sound of waking trees and spring’s approach.

sand topography
oceanic confluence
so mesmerizing

Despite the change in weather (We’d had a respite from the freezing temperatures- the sun was out and it was in the 50s.), I woke anxious.  More anxious than I’d been in a long time, especially given our current circumstances.  I knew I needed to get my attention off what was bothering me so that a new mood could emerge.  One of the best ways I know to do this is to go for a walk.  My husband and I headed to nearby Crane Beach.

The first gift was getting through the guard gate.

As we approached, I asked my husband to grab my phone and find the image I’d taken of my car recently when icicles formed on its bumper looking like whiskers. I’d snapped a photo thinking to post Sparky’s (my car’s name) bearded look on Facebook, then thought better of posting my car and license plate number on the impossible-to-regulate-privacy website.

I wanted to locate the picture of my car, because we were in a loaner car.  My car had a beach pass sticker on its windshield. It’s fifteen dollars to get into the beach on a weekday and twenty-five for the weekend.  We really didn’t want to hand over money if we didn’t have to do so.  After all, that’s why we paid money for the pass and we make good use of it.

“Here’s the thing,” I began, addressing the man at the beach’s guard shack, “this is not my car.  It’s a loaner.  My car has been in the shop for a week, which means I don’t have my sticker.” I pointed to the windshield where the sticker should have been.  The man gave me a dubious look.  I forged ahead anyway, “But I have a picture of my car and you can see the sticker in the window.” I handed him the phone. “And I’ve got my Trustees of the Reservation Membership card…” I ended hopefully with a smile.

He made a gesture as if he were using his scanning device on the phone, smiled and sighed, “Well… normally, that’s a story people tell me” he paused to chuckle, handing my phone back, “but you seem believable, so go ahead.” He smiled conspiratorially.

“THANK YOU!!!” My husband and I both said.

“We really appreciate it!” I added.

“Boy, am I grateful he let us through.”  I said to my husband as we navigated our way through the bumps and puddles of the sand and dirt lot to a parking spot.

As always, my heart soared anticipating the first glimpse of the ocean as I walked up the wooden steps to traverse the walkway across the grass-covered dune to the beach.  It brings me such joy. IMG_1349

The tide was still going out and wouldn’t be coming back in for nearly two hours, which meant we were able to walk to one of my favorite parts of the beach – where a confluence occurs.  I’m not sure what two bodies of water come together there. Maybe two different bays meet at this particular spot? I’m not sure.  But the confluence is a great visual metaphor of things, other than just water, coming together and I love to watch patterns created by this movement.

IMG_2815We walked out to this point on the beach and stood for a long time taking in the waves and sound.  I pulled out my phone and tried to capture images of the dynamic patterns that drew me to the spot.  On the way there, I appreciated the patterns and forms created by the waves upon the sand.  And on the way back, both my husband and I took our time, capturing bits of the beach with our iPhone cameras.

As we approached the wooden walkway, we talked about how grateful we were for getting out of the house, the beach (and getting in without our pass!), taking a walk, and enjoying our exploration of the beach’s beauty.  The bleak mood that had threatened to overtake us had been transformed as we simply walked the beach, allowing our senses to be drawn away from our inner world and mesmerized by our surroundings.

I call this one "I Want a Gold Bracelet" - the title is inspired by a fellow blogger/poet.  See her poem

I call this one “I Want a Gold Bracelet” – the title is inspired by a fellow blogger/poet. See her poem

Dragon's Wing

Dragon’s Wing

Rumpled Bed Covers

Rumpled Bed Covers