Local Discoveries--Old Furnace State Park

Old Furnace State Park

Celia had a half-day of school last Friday and it is common knowledge that half-days are wasted unless they are spent in the company of your best friend. The original plan involved an entire afternoon and evening spent at our house complete with secret plans, pizza for dinner, and ending with pleadings for a sleepover. However, one ill father later and we had to come up with an alternative. They settled for a hike at the nearby state park and a trip for frozen yoghurt. Thank goodness they are still at the age to be easily pleased.

Old Furnace State Park

This is a walk we have done regularly over the years we have lived in the area. We first started doing it when Celia was almost four and I have clear memories of struggling up the last steep section towing an overtired small child after me. I also have clear memories of temporarily losing my son in these woods when he was younger. I freaked out and when we eventually found him he could not comprehend why I was upset. He had stayed on the path and waited at the top. What more could we ask for? Kids will be the death of me.

Old Furnace State Park

Old Furnace State Park

Old Furnace State Park

autumn fern

The girls giggled their way through the entire hike. There were endless discussions about the best breed of dog and where they should travel for the post-high-school trip they are dreaming of. The current contenders are Paris and Greece though I am sure that will change five million times in the next few years.

Old Furnace State Park

We did take a wrong turn at one point and ended up across the pond instead of on the cliffs at the top. You can see them in the trees in the photo above. They don't look particularly impressive here but they do feel high when you are standing on the edge.  They aren't massive but they are tall enough that rock climbers use them for practice.

Old Furnace State Park

Old Furnace State Park

Celia took one look at the bench in the photo above and asked me if I had a book in my backpack. She thought it would make a great photo opportunity for Instagram. She was right but unfortunately, I took my book out so my bag wouldn't be too heavy. We will just have to go back with the appropriate props.

It was a good day. We ended it with coffee-and-dark-chocolate frozen yoghurt. What more can you ask for? Well, except for a sleepover with your best friend...

This One Is For My Dad

My dad might possibly be my most dedicated blog reader and the person with the strongest belief in my ability to write. Within half an hour of finding out my blog existed, he had purchased a subscription to a writing magazine for me. So when he (kind of jokingly) suggested that he should make an appearance on my blog I knew it had to be done. So, here are a bunch of random facts and memories about my dad. And Dad? No complaining about the photos. This was your idea.

He has a firm belief that a good cup of coffee and a doughnut or two can solve all the world's ills. The doughnut should be cinnamon and the coffee should be unflavored. Flavored coffees are an abomination. From the time my kids were tiny they have loved sleeping over at Grandpa's because they know he will provide doughnuts for breakfast which is a tradition carried on from my childhood.

When I was young many of my friends were a bit intimidated by my dad. He decided he needed to do something about that and he started telling them jokes. Specifically, chicken jokes. For example: Why did the chicken cross the road? Answer: To avoid bad yolks. He had endless variations on this theme. It is hard to continue to be intimidated by someone who is telling you abysmal jokes and laughing at them more than you are. When my best friend and I graduated from high school he bought us sweatshirts that said: "Tell me a chicken joke." We made him very happy when we actually wore them.

My dad is completely convinced that my mom is the most wonderful, beautiful, intelligent, charming woman that ever walked the face of the earth. That alone is quite charming.

He always had jobs that involved writing (newspaper editor, public relations) and when I was young he frequently worked at home in the evenings. This was before the days of computers so he used a typewriter. I would lie in bed at night and hear the clack of the typewriter keys and the murmur of my parents' voices.  To this day, the sound of a typewriter brings back happy memories and a sense of security.

Once, when I was very little I found a sea urchin shell in a tidal pool in Maine. I was very excited and it immediately became a prized possession. Until that is, I managed to slip on the rocky shore, fall down, and smash my shell. I was devastated. We spent a long time looking for a new one but they were all broken or too hard to get to. Finally, my dad clambered over rocks and basically fell into a deep tidal pool in order to get me another one. I had it for years and years and when my kids broke it when they were younger I cried.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts is my dad's happy place. Let him walk along the National Seashore and then take him out for clam chowder and he is a happy man. With, of course, coffee and doughnuts for breakfast.

My dad firmly believes that clutter needs to be disposed of. This leads to his endless attempts to pawn things off on me. He also tends to throw things away. When I lived at home we always knew that if we were missing some vital piece of paper, or the newspaper, or anything else that looked like it didn't belong where it was, we should look in the garbage because Dad probably "cleaned it up." I still sometimes see my mom grabbing things out of his hands at the last minute as he is standing over the garbage. His intentions are good...

My dad used to have lots of black hair. Now he...doesn't. He claims that, as teenagers, I made him go gray and my sister made him go bald.

Once upon a time, he met Big Bird from Sesame Street. Big Bird came into the newsroom he worked in. There is photographic evidence of this but my daughter couldn't find it. If my dad sends me the photo I'll update this.

Once, when I was very little, our dog totally destroyed my Raggedy Ann doll. I had left all my stuffed toys on the floor even though I had been told not to and when we came home Raggedy Ann was in pieces. I cried and cried. There was no lecture about picking up after myself. Instead, we turned around, got straight back in the car, and went to the store to buy me a new Raggedy Ann. It wasn't quite the same but it did assuage some of the pain. I still think of it sometimes when dealing with my kids. There is a time and a place for a lecture and a time and a place for doing what makes everything better.

He loves elephants and trains and has developed quite a collection over the years. He finally had to declare a moratorium on elephant related gifts because their house was being overtaken by them. If you look in the background of the photo where he is holding a coffee cup you can see a little bit of his collection.

When my son was ten weeks old he had to have surgery to repair a cleft lip. After the surgery, he was miserable and swollen and had stitches in his lip and mouth. However, when Grandpa came in to visit Tristan managed this huge, ear to ear, smile. Grandpa was the only one that got a smile that day. My kids still think "Grandpa is awesome."

 Who am I to argue?

Books Bought In August

Brattle Book Shop

The other day my kids were discussing what they would do if they had all the money in the world. Their dreams were amazingly realistic. My son decided he would build his own machine shop in our garage so he could slowly develop a small business. My daughter wants a dog. A black lab. This is no surprise. Dogs and her ongoing campaign for one are pretty much her only topic of conversation. The kids decided if their dad had all the coffee in the world and yearly trips to England he would be happy. I asked them what they would get me with all the money in the world. They both looked slightly bemused, as if there really could be no debate about this, and told me I could order all the books I wanted. My kids know me well. Apparently, I have been making a start on buying all the books I want even though we do not have all the money in the world. In my defense, I bought eleven books and I think I spent under $20.00 for all of them.

Five of the books came from Brattle Book Shop in Boston. I wrote a post about it here. I stopped in again very briefly on my way home a few weeks ago and bought a few bargains from their outdoor section. None of them were books I was particularly looking for but they were all books I was pleased to find. The Victorian House sounds interesting. I like reading about how people lived in different time periods. I enjoy Edna St. Vincent Millay's poetry so it only made sense to snag a volume of her letters. I was pleased to find a copy of Mrs. Miniver. It is a book I have read a few times but do not own. If you want you can read my review of it here. Woman Who Went To War fits perfectly into my interest in Britain during WWII. Finally, I found a copy of A Peculiar Treasure, an autobiography of Edna Ferber. I recently reread Saratoga Trunk so this seemed like perfect timing.


I found a couple of books at a library book sale. Devil Water by Anya Seton was actually on the free rack. I read it years and years ago and remember very little about it. It might be time for a reread. I bought a copy of At Home by Bill Bryson. I always enjoy his books. I had this as an e-book loan from the library but it is really more the type of book I like to dip in and out of rather than read straight through so when I saw a copy for a dollar I picked it up. 

The last few books are ones I ordered online. They are ones I particularly wanted, not ones I stumbled across like all the previous ones mentioned. I bought another Helene Hanff, Underfoot in Show Business, since I am in the process of rereading her books. Then I bought two books about books which might be one of my favorite reading categories. I finished The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller last week. It made me laugh and his enthusiasm shone through but I am still trying to decide whether or not to forgive him for not liking Pride and Prejudice. When I bought the Andy Miller book Ex Libris showed up as a recommended purchase. Who am I to argue about the wisdom of buying another book about books? It promptly went into my cart. I know nothing about it but it gets good reviews. My last purchase was The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks. I follow him on Twitter and enjoy the bits of his life I see there so decided to give his book a try. 

I may not have all the money in the world but I do seem to have an endless supply of books. And if I did have all the money in the world what would I do? Well, I have always dreamed of a home library with shelves on all the walls, a big fireplace, and the world's most comfy chair. What do you dream of?

On Dragons in the Meadow and Other Feats of the Imagination

dirt road walk

Celia and I went for a walk the other night. It is the same walk we usually take, one I have written about before. We walk through the business at the end of our street, past a pond, skirt a development, and end up on the bike path by the river. Every foot of it is familiar. We know all the paths down to the river, all the flowers that bloom at different times of the year, and Celia knows most of the dogs that are walked on the path.

It is all so very familiar but, to Celia, it is all still an adventure. The rustle in the bushes could be a villain with a gun ready to jump out and scare us. After all, scary is thrilling if you know you are safe. The dirt path by the river is really the path made by a pride of lions in the wilds of Africa. She quietly stalks them only to be distracted by the sound of a squirrel in the trees, or is it a monkey? We head up to the open field at the end of the trail and she scolds me for walking too noisily. We must be quiet because we are creeping up to check on the hunters who have gone before us and not returned. Probably they have been captured by the dragon that has been spotted in the area. It is our mission to rescue them and tame the dragon.

Imagination is a wonderful thing and I am thrilled that at twelve years old Celia still revels in it. She told me that her head is always full of stories but when she tries to write them down they tend to vanish. Maybe one day she will work at writing them but right now I am glad she has a world inside her head that keeps her company and she hasn't yet reached an age where she feels like she needs or wants to pretend that world doesn't exist. The world of imagination adds color and interest and texture to the work-a-day world we inhabit. It provides a place to escape to when we are stressed or lonely. It helps us deal with anxieties or fears. Maybe, in a way, we are turning those anxieties and fears into dragons we can tame.

Isn't that why many of us love to read? We love stories and the escape and entertainment they provide. For many of us, that love of stories continues in our imaginations as it does for Celia. We may not even consciously realize it is happening but there is a running commentary of what could happen, what might happen, what we wish would happen. Sometimes that commentary is muted, sometimes it vanishes for a while, but sometimes it returns.

Sometimes it returns because you are in the company of someone who still sees dragons in the meadow and isn't afraid to admit it.