Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Merrily we Roll Along

That title fits this day doubly, at least. My main reason for using it was because of the Rolling Rally the city of Boston held for the WORLD CHAMPION Red Sox =) Quite a number of our students "skipped" school in favor of the rally. Several others came in for a few hours and then left (including my nephew, who went with his mother and another parent and his daughter and friends) to go to the rally. They called in periodically to let us know they were OK and having a great time. Meanwhile, the Red Sox players and affiliates were enjoying a slow 7 mile journey through Boston on "duck boats," waving and shouting to the enthusiastic, but orderly, crowds.

My other reason for using the title is because it describes my life so well right now. I am over the top busy, and not a little tired, but tomorrow we end our first quarter on a fairly happy note, with things going more smoothly than not. If you teach, you know that's not always the way it goes with kids. This year, so far so good. Sure there have been bumps along the way, but none, so far, that we've not been able to handle. Some years are like that.

Photo from The Boston Globe on-line, John Tlumacki, photographer. My sister and nephew and a couple dozen of my students are somewhere in that crowd!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The World is Flat

New York Times foreign affairs correspondent Thomas L. Friendman wrote a best-selling book a couple of years ago entitled The World is Flat. In it, he analyzes the progress of globalization, looking particularly at the early twenty-first century. He contends that the world has been flattened by ten flatteners, things that allow both teams to play on an even field, giving both equal advantage. The second flattener that came along (in 1995) was the invention of Netscape when, as Wikepedia describes it, "the Internet broadened its audience from 'early adopters and geeks' who used the Web primarily as a communications medium to everyone from 5-year-olds to 85-year-olds.

Tonight, my life was enhanced greatly as I enjoyed a mini- concert by the orchestra that my niece plays in at her college. This is an 18 hour drive from here, and yet via the magic of the internet I heard and saw her play live without driving a mile. It was the coolest thing to be able to do that! Now, whenever she is involved in such a program, all I have to do is turn on my computer and check out the live streaming video coming from the college. A dozen years ago, I could not have done that. Certainly my parents could not have not done that years ago when my sisters and I were in college! Nor would they even have dreamed it possible in the future.

Another of Friedman's flatteners is what he calls uploading. Open source software, blogs, and Wikepedia are examples of communities that upload and collaborate on online projects. This is "the most disruptive force of all," he says.

Well, if all this is true, my personal world is a little flatter and a bit disrupted tonight. I'm watching my niece play while a good friends conducts her and the other orchestra members (several of which I know), and I'm blogging it to people I have never met face to face, but who are good cyber space friends.

I used to say "it's a small world" with real conviction because everywhere I've traveled (and by now it's more than 30 countries), I've found someone I know or someone who knows someone I know. Now, I can say "it's a flat world" with equal conviction. Who'd've thought it? Surely the ancient explorers are rolling over in their graves at those words!!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Never Give Up!

I have been a Red Sox fan for 35 years. I'm up late tonight because I just watched the Red Sox beat the Indians for the American League championship.

Down 3 to 1 to the Indians, they won 3 games in a row to take the championship. What a huge example of never giving up!

Now, on to the Rockies!!!

The Joy of Music-making

About 16 years ago, I took two years off from teaching. I had a serious case of burn-out, so decided to take a step back, go to school again, and regain my perspective. I found a program at UNH that interested me and embarked on a journey that ended up giving me wings (almost literally) that lifted me out of despair and into a joy I could never have predicted.

The wings and the joy came through the orchestra I joined, taking me to the far reaches of the globe (including China and South Africa) and many places in between. The orchestra consisted primarily of high school and college students. I was neither, nor was I the only older player, but the youngsters embraced me and made me feel right at home. When the orchestra toured, it was usually with a collegiate choir, so there was a large group of us everywhere we went.

I don't have the space to recount all the amazing adventures I had during the parts of three years I toured with this group. Suffice it to say they were legion, and often profound. I'm thinking about them tonight because yesterday the next generation of both the choir and orchestra gave a concert at our church. For 90 minutes I was transported on a whirlwind tour of the places I'd been years ago. Each piece had it's own visual connection for me.

Oh, those were the best of times! I don't usually want to go back to another time in my life because I like who I've become, but those years are ones I'd go back to in a heart beat. Making music, and all the travel I've done in order to make that music for others, gave me such a joy that I can only imagine will be better in heaven.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My Heart Leaps Up

"My heart leaps up when I behold
a rainbow in the sky..."
~William Wordsworth

I love driving this time of year. Almost at every turn there is a fiery beautiful tree. Some roads are ablaze with color, almost like a tunnel of fire. This morning, I had to go to a town about 1/2 hour's drive away from me. Even though it was all on either interstate or toll road, it was a beautiful drive. I wish I could have taken pictures as I went, but it's not the best idea to try to take pictures while you drive, and I couldn't stop on these roads, unlike the winding country roads of last week.

Still, I have been able to get some good pictures this past week. I was thinking this morning that the fall colors are kind of like a rainbow.

Certainly there are the first four colors of the rainbow in the trees, then there's the blue sky, so all that is missing is purple, and if you count the dark red/maroon of some maples, then you have the full spectrum of colors.

Which is why the Wordsworth lines came to mind as I made my way west to Framingham this morning. My heart truly did leap up when I beheld all this lovely fall day had in store for me.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vermont photo ops

Here are more pictures from my drive home on Sunday.

Entrance to Pico Mountain ski area. Years ago when I was in college, we came up here for a ski day. The only thing I clearly remember about the day is that my boyfriend and I rode up with our PE teacher and her husband. Mostly likely it's a great place to ski, but for some reason I don't remember that part! It's awfully pretty now, though...

Gourds and Flowers decorate this window box in Woodstock.

Store front of the oldest independently owned bookstore in Vermont (located in Woodstock).

I loved the pumpkin/squash/gourd stack in front of this house! Don't know what they are skewered on, but how cool is this?!!

This herd of cows, pigs, and skunks is grazing on a hill between Woodstock and Queechee. They belong to the owners of the "Fool on a Hill" gourmet foods shop that also featured baked goods, apples, cider, and fire-roasted corn on the cob! The corn is something I dream about eating. The entrepreneurs have created all kids of toppings...most of which I never ever thought about putting on corn. It's 50 cents an ear, with however many toppings you want to try. I'm not all that adventurous, so usually stick to butter and salt. Oooooh! It's so good!

These carved-from-stump bears wave good bye to visitors at the "Fool on the Hill" shop.

Pottery display in one of the Simon Pierce glassblowing and pottery showrooms in Queechee. I love the sunflowers!

Queechee Church with the river for its backyard. What a lovely view!

Queechee Gorge. The river you see is 1/2 mile below the bridge from which I took this picture. It's much prettier in real life, but this shows you fairly well how stunning a view I had. Hundreds of people come through this spot each weekend. The snack shop nearby keeps a tally of "leaf peeper" buses that come through each day. Already by 11 a.m. they'd served 7 big bus loads of people!

Another picturesque church in Queechee Village

Monday, October 15, 2007

Meandering southeast on route 4

(I have more pictures for this post, but Blogger isn't letting me upload them right now. Will have to do it later...)

My trip home yesterday from Killington took me about 6 hours instead of the 2 3/4 hours it took driving north. That's because I stopped to wander through charming villages and take pictures of spectacular vistas.

My first stop was a gift shop about 5 minutes from the inn where I'd stayed. It had 6 large rooms crammed with beautiful things for the home...beautiful paintings, inspiring books, lovely pillows, and other works of art. Everywhere I looked was something I wanted for my home. I found several good Christmas presents here, too.

Next, I spent an hour or more walking the streets of Woodstock, one of the prettiest towns I've driven through in Vermont. I mostly window shopped here, enjoying the beautiful fall decorations in window boxes and at doorsteps.

My next shop stop was in Queechee at the Simon Pierce glass blowing and pottery showrooms. I had a student who used to work here as a display designer. He was so good they sent him to work in their 5th Avenue shop in New York City! This, at age 17 and 18, with no formal training, just a good artist's eye.

Last stop was at a country store I've visited many times before and found fun things for myself and others. This time I found a doll carrying a book bag with a history book and Little Women in it. How could I pass that up?!

In between shopping stops, there were a few interesting roadside sites, like hay bale bears and carved-from-stump bears, and pumpkin and gourd towers and dragons and giant lawn chairs. There are a lot of creative people out there!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vermont's Covered Bridges

The past two days, while driving through Vermont, I saw a number of covered bridges. Some were modernized, but others were in their original state. There's nothing that says New England more than a covered bridge in the fall.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Best of Friends tie the knot

The wedding I attending this afternoon at Riverside Farm in Pittsfield, VT was supposed to be outdoors, but the cool, brisk breeze forced the ceremony inside the barn. We were all glad, you can be sure of that, even though it was quite beautiful outside. None of us were wanting to sit for 45 minutes in the 50ish coolness of a late afternoon.

Once again, I found a few of my worlds colliding. My high school years, my college and early work years, and the mid years of my teaching tenure at my current school...all colliding in one space. It's a weird feeling to look around you and have different facets of your life flash before you...

And yet it was so much fun! More than a dozen former students were involved one way or another with the wedding, and at least four former colleagues were there to enjoy it all. My sister and three others provided the music for the ceremony, and instead of lighting the unity candle, the couple washed each other's feet. I thought that was such a special, meaningful thing for them to do. The tenderness of that act was so right.

These two have been friends since they were in grade school together, although they didn't start dating until after college. They always sat together in my classroom, I remember. You just never know where a friendship will take you!

I left sometime after 8, but the younger crowd was still going strong. Used to be I could keep up with the best of them. Not so true now! None the less, it was a beautiful day. I must say I enjoyed it enormously...

Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being—Percy Bysshe Shelley

No spring, nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face;

John Donne (1572–1631) "Elegy IX: The Autumnal"

There is music in the meadows, in the air–
Autumn is here;
Skies are gray, but hearts are mellow,

—William Stanley Braithwaite, (1878–1962)
"A Lyric of Autumn," Lyrics of Life and Love (1904)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;

John Keats (1795–1821) "CCLV Ode to Autumn," The Golden Treasury (1875)

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry's cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) "Nature XXVII, Autumn"

Photos taken this morning in the Killington, VT area.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Killing me Softly

No reason for that title, really, except that I am in Killington, VT for the weekend (for a wedding of two former students) and the colors are to die for. Literally. I drove up here late this afternoon and could hardly keep my eyes on the road for looking at the spectacular scenery all around me. Obviously I couldn't get any photos while driving, but rest assured tomorrow and Sunday my camera will come out and I'll capture some of what I see to share here.

The journey north is one I've made many times over the past dozen years or so. It's part (most) of the way to three upstate New York destinations that I used to take my junior class to each September for a two-day field trip. It was actually an inter-disciplinary project between American Literature, American History, and 11th grade Bible class (church history) hitting Fort William Henry (for The Last of the Mohicans), Fort Ticonderoga (re-enactment battle), and the William Miller Farm (fore-runner of our church).

Every time I was on one of those trips, I always told myself I'd go back sometime on my own when I could stop in the quaint little villages and shop to my heart's content. I've never done it, in all these years. Once, 3-4 years ago, I went up on a Friday with my two nieces. They had a concert in my favorite town along the way (Woodstock). I thought I'd get to wander the town while they rehearsed, but it was not to be.

So...when I got the invitation to this wedding, I decided that I'd come up early and treat myself to the wandering I've wanted to do for so long. I planned to get away from school at noon, but naturally that didn't happen. I left just after 2, and left my house just after 3, so it was just before dark when I arrived at my destination here in Killington. Oh well. I didn't have to drive in the dark. That's all I' cared about.

Tomorrow, I will bask in the fiery glow of the tree-covered mountains. The wedding is in the late afternoon, outdoors (brrrrr!) on a farm. There will be many old friends there (former students, classmates (high school and college), and co-workers), so it will be a fun gathering. Then Sunday, I'll take my time going home, stopping in all the places I always said I would. Can't wait!

Photos: A local farm stand; a tree in front of our school

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Autumn Song

by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Know'st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the heart feels a languid grief
Laid on it for a covering,
And how sleep seems a goodly thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

And how the swift beat of the brain
Falters because it is in vain,
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf
Knowest thou not? and how the chief
Of joys seems—not to suffer pain?

Know'st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the soul feels like a dried sheaf
Bound up at length for harvesting,
And how death seems a comely thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bear and Deer and Birds, Oh My!

The Calgary trip is at an end for my sister, but she sent one last installment of her amazing photos last night. We keep wondering (jokingly) if she really saw all this and if these were her pictures taken with her personal camera, but she insists that yes, she saw all this and that yes, she took all the pictures except for the really good animal pictures. Those were taken by a colleague with a (better) camera with a big telephoto lens.