Sunday, July 28, 2013

Where's that truck?

In my first few months of posting on this blog, I wrote a piece called “Retrospection” about slowing down and enjoying the moment.  Sometime between then and now, I must have fallen off the back of a truck because I seem to have pushed and shoved busy-ness into my daily life harkening back to the time when I was still in career mode. 

I don’t mean to imply that life is the same as it was before.  It’s vastly different.  But in place of the policy discussions, staff meetings, issue papers and late-night reading, I now fill my days and evenings with some-productive and some-mindless activities. 

I honestly thought I would have time to read all those books that are sitting around staring at me.  I thought there would be hours of introspection, thoughtful musing on the good fortune of a loving family and reasonably good health, leisurely walks along the river with my camera, visits with out-of-town friends, frequent and brilliant posts on this blog.  After I post this my co-author and I will spend the remainder of the day working on our third mystery and tomorrow, I will work on my book about adventures in France.  The remainder of the week is spoken for with part-time work to feed my travel fancy and many other scheduled chunks of time. 

I find myself at a point when I feel the need to cram it all in rather than move along slowly.  All those years I focused almost solely on my career, now I focus on all the things I could not do while working.  And I seem to want them all at once.  I only hope I can find the back of that truck somewhere along the path into maturity. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cleanliness Next to Godliness. . .

Or so they say.  Milo is groomed and bathed every week.  I know, I know.  I’m not supposed to bathe him more than once a month.  But for reasons unrelated to his color (white), he needs to be bathed weekly.  But this time, he hasn’t been bathed for two weeks.  And to make matters worse, we had a visit last weekend by Winston and Jack, first-son Seth’s dogs.  And the messes they get into, trust me, are totally unhygienic. 

Here he is pre-grooming.  The photo doesn’t fully articulate the filth on his dog-ness, but trust me, he was dirty. 

Then there was the hairdo.  A comb and cut atop the dining table, which is thoroughly cleaned post-coiffure, I assure you.  He dozes during much of this and it’s a challenge to turn him over to do the other side—a little like turning flaky fish that falls apart.  One must be ever so careful about it.

His hair (not fur) grows so fast that I have to take this much off every week—never mind every other week. 

Then there’s the bath.  He loves his bath (NOT!), but he tolerates it.  And afterward, he looks a little like a wet dog, which makes a lot of sense since, in fact, he IS a wet dog.


An hour or so later, he has returned to his former temporarily clean self looking so dapper and, I imagine, feeling ever so much better. 

Besides we’re much more likely to be affectionate if he’s clean!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

An Animated Explanation of the Tour de France

I just came across this wonderful ten-minute YouTube animated video explaining the Tour.  This should put some additional meat on the bones of Friday's blog.  Enjoy:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Le Tour de France

Each year we watch Le Tour de France as the bicyclists pedal their way around France—and sometimes a neighboring country at the beginning of the race.  This year, Le Tour started in Corsica. I know, I know.  That’s France.  But the Corsicans don’t always consider themselves French, or so I’ve heard.  I imagine the Tourist Board of Corsica is over the moon about those three days.  Corsica’s obscurity is doubtless changing.   We caught a glimpse of stunning country—craggy peaks, steep slopes, an improbably perched village at the edge of the sea.  It was very dramatic and new to us. 

We watch Le Tour for two reasons.  First, it’s an extraordinary physical accomplishment for the cyclists.  Over two thousand miles around the country on plains, mountains, curves, villages and finally, the Champs-Élysées in Paris.  The photography is first-rate.  The camera-equipped helicopters are French, but the video is shared with other stations, including the station we watch.  And since we watch French television on cable, we have the benefit of both the full footage made available there and the more edited footage on NBC Sports Network. 

NBC Sports photo with chateau in background
We’ve been watching for many years and listening to the outstanding commentators—Phil Liggett (former amateur cyclist), Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll (both former professional cyclists), all three first-rate and experienced bicycle experts.  I’m not much for sport commentating (except for ice skating because I grew up skating myself), but these fellows are entertaining, informative, interesting and challenging.

Phil and I have our favorites.  Since Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace, I’ve moved my loyalty toward Mark Cavendish, cyclist from the Isle of Man.  I used to support the Spanish rider, Alberto Contador, but once Armstrong faltered, it was clear he wasn’t alone. 

We look forward all year to Le Tour and welcome the three-week distraction.  If you have any interest in scenes of France, you might want to check out Le Tour. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

How do you say. . .?

My great aunt, Addie Mae Brown, was an English and Latin teacher in Torrington, Connecticut.  She spent her summers with her sister and brother-in-law, my grandparents, in Calais, Maine, as did I and my siblings.  Auntie was utterly dependent on the generosity of others.  She didn’t know how to cook, shop, drive, or any other basic life-sustaining skills.  She could brew a pot of tea and peel an orange.  She suffered from brutal migraine headaches that frequently sent her to bed in a darkened room.

But Auntie knew her words.  In Calais, we would go on walks to the St. Croix River.  Along the way, she identified weeds, flowers, bushes, trees using both the Latin and the more familiar common names.  We boldly crossed the golf course—oblivious to the hazards, and at the edge of the golf course, we would spread our lunch out on a flat rock overlooking the river.  Or we would walk away from the river and up the hill to the cemetery to roam among the graves of dead people who had been important to her and about whom I was innocently disinterested.  The cemetery was usually still and often smelled of new-mown grass.  The turf was soft and spongy.  We would sit on an old grave mound and eat our lunch, listening to the sounds of the wind in the trees.

These walks and talks and teachings were the foundation of my lifelong interest in language. 

When I was in high school, I scoffed at the notion that my study of Latin
Just a sampling.
would ever be useful.  They were right.  I was wrong—and I’m o.k. with it. 
On my desk are one English dictionary (Yes, I still use a paper dictionary.), three French-English dictionaries, one Italian-English dictionary, one Spanish-English dictionary, three French grammar books, one book of Spanish verbs and phrase books in French, Italian (two) and Portuguese.  You might ask why.  I am fascinated with language.  Not in a scholarly way, mind you, but in a practical way. 

I have traveled on three continents and lived on two.   I make an effort to speak in the language of the country wherever I go.  Some languages have come more easily than others.  I’m fluent enough in Spanish and comfortable, but not anywhere near fluent in French.  Italian, I believe, is the most lyrical of the three.  And Portuguese is a total challenge. 

Communication through the spoken word is a way to connect with others whose cultures and habits and history are different from mine.  Imagine the adventures foregone without that connection.  I never hesitate to ask, “How do you say. . .?”  And I will persist.