Sunday, September 13, 2015

Friends: preliminary thoughts

"Friend" -- always to me an ambiguous word. Is a friend more than an acquaintance? Is a friend one I never disagree with, and vice versa?  Are we soul mates, whatever that means?!

In grammar school it was one thing; same w/ high school. Friends were proximate, for starters. But what was the draw?

Not till college do I now consciously remember friends being intellectual mates, and then/therefore, "friends" -- e.g., those in the same group I was for communications/lit classes. No need to deny now: we were advanced/special/gifted (tho I didn't know that at the time). So in a sense, we also competed w/ one another, besides having fun together. . . One, Estelle, was special, at least for some time.

Then, while teaching and in state govt., first there was Pam, mainly my horseback riding friend;  a (very) few of those I worked w/ in Trenton (Debbie S., Barbara R.); and gradually I moved over to the artists I was trying to learn about via my PAA volunteering. Friends morphed into admired artists-- quite a difference, really. 

After that, freelance writing and auditing PU courses introduced me to many others -- Charlotte B., Gwendolyn, many others, however fleetingly, although some friends from earlier stayed the course -- Barbara, as a main one.

By then, I was looking for different things, or more than, fun from friends: similar interests, values; admiration, a chance to learn . . . Except for Maggi over many years, artists I wrote about came and went; I'd see them for a while, then not, then again. And many of them were a deal older than I -- was I looking for a mother-sub? 

Besides, so many artists are hopeless narcissists. Thus, Connie, and others, whose focus was inward. 

Others I wrote about, like Susie, also came and went, depending on life events and their or my needs. . . Gail is another -- but she's on the west coast!

Now, looking back, those who have hung in w/ me -- Barbara and Gwendolyn leading the pack -- were not the ones I would have bet on, or even hoped would do so. . . then. But oh, how I value them now, now when I'm more interested in character than much else. 

Friends. Much more to say on this; to follow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

End of pool season (flashback to 9-4-15)

Waxing sentimental about our pool season, which ended last Friday -- a season we concluded has encompassed four summers of going to the Princeton Community Park Pool for sun, warm water (mostly!), relaxing, forcible removal from home routines. No denying it's a time gobbler: up to 4 hours spent commuting, lapping, showering and re-dressing each pool day. But so worth it!

The 2 women I've been aware of for the last few weeks this summer: they're older, they wear 2-piece suits (inappropriately, I've thought), they sit in the sun on the pool deck, regularly applying sun screen, especially on their bare (midriffs? bellies? torsos?) as if they enjoy doing it, feeling it. Who knows what they think of while applying it -- remembering their youth and beauty? another time or place? a different person smoothing it on them?

When one of them -- the one who drives there in a small convertible and who looks the best, in her black sunglasses w/ her wavy blondish hair -- walks around, her belly curves out, while her shoulders curve in. That's when her age is so apparent. But to give her credit, she doesn't conceal her body, or refrain from walking around. I like to think she's reached this point and feels she earned the sensuous relaxation of these pool days.   

I also like to think she has enjoyed shared sensuousness, and maybe now her own touch on herself with that sunscreen is a kind of reminder of such good things earlier in her life.

And then this reality: some people look much better (fully) dressed than (virtually) undressed. 

So, adieu to the pool and all the people (including the many we nicknamed), and the fudge bars and the occasional fries -- but most of all, the healthful feeling of just being there, making our way through the water and feeling better for it. . . and being lucky enough for all that to happen.


Two in the Pool 

Like a tropical fish whose fluttery fins
undulate gracefully
next to me --
briefly --
before speeding far ahead,
the girl in the “medium” speed lane
leaves me, like a manatee,
moving deliberately
toward the end
of “slow.”


Sun Tracks

Easy to tell without looking up
when the sun moves behind a cloud:
Looking down, I see the water darken
while golden ripple lines on the bottom –
a wavy plaid of light-through-aqua –
fade away.



Labor Day & beyond

To a summer-lover, what's worse than Labor Day? Easy: the day after Labor Day, when no-more-summer actually begins. . . and runs for months, getting colder and darker as it goes. Ugh! For that summer-lover, next April will bring the first (brief, temporary, taunting) ray of hope -- for warmth, color, comfort!

That summer-lover is already planning indoor things to do: painting walls and furniture, and reading this or that; drinking tea; training a certain B & W cat to come or to sit; learning to play w/ both cats; baking . . . fighting depression from the inside!    

Winter's also a recipe-testing time. We found a number of "keeper" meals that way last winter. And in truth, it can be beautiful in a snowy way, or even a bleak and barren way. But it wears on one. And once Halloween, then Thanksgiving, have both come and gone, winter -- with all its discomforts and unending chill -- is here.

Which accounts for our looking forward to January's Caribbean visit, the 10 days in warmth and beauty in the midst of stark winter. . . to which we must return. But by then, it's only ("only"!) February and March before the magic and hope of April -- which is not "the cruellest month," but the  month before "the merry month of May"!


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Best birthday yet

Yesterday was my birthday, and I loved it, as usual. In fact, the anticipation was almost better than the day itself.

Why celebrate a birthday? All any of us do that day was to be born: no effort, no achievement, no changing the world. And yet, we -- or at least, I -- do celebrate my birthday, as well as the natal day of those I love. Even though there's no quantifiable reason for doing so, or, to use the current buzzword, no "metrics" are involved in deciding to celebrate a birthday.

So, when my birthday dawned, I was glad and excited about it. Very deliberately, I savored everything that happened because it happened on my birthday. For instance, we drove to the pool for our laps, and I was particularly conscious of the scenery on the way, the beautiful summer day it was and Joe's wonderful company, as usual, yet even more appreciated then. Colors seemed brighter, people seemed nicer, worries/problems seemed miniscule and "handle-able."

The day progressed and I kept that frame of mind, even w/ a big annoyance that afternoon. Tomorrow would be time enough to act on it, I thought. (And I did act on it today.)

Then came the birthday party, with my three boys but mainly w/ Joe. (Harry and Billy had decamped for the 2nd floor, unlike them w/ food around. But then again, they'd been particularly loving pussycats  that morning -- uncharacteristically demonstrative.)

Our party-for-two, consisting as usual of brie and bubbly (with a few other nice edibles), and ice cream pie . . . was, as always, a very happy affair. I was, and am, perfectly content: in the home I love w/ the man I love. "Who could ask for anything more?"

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bliss of 2 kinds – watery & artful

Monday and Tuesday of this week were ideal swimming pool days for me: bright sun, high temp, warm water, relatively few people in the pool. I could have lapped and lapped – it was effortless and totally pleasurable. Now and then, I dove under in my lane, playing porpoise, or dolphin, whatever. . . (as close to playful as I come in a pool).

Often, something about the pool is “off”: too many people clogging “my” already “slow” lane, shockingly cool water, intermittent-only sunshine. That last is the worst. I would happily trade state secrets for steady sunshine on cool-water days, when I must labor up and down, hoping to see the telltale patterns in the water that tell me the sun has broken through.  

But Monday and Tuesday made up for many less comfortable days.


Then today’s visit to “the new Whitney,” which opened May 1 in a different part of NYC – a wonderful place! With myriad close-up views of the Hudson River, the High Line, the district around the museum (roof gardens, w/ furniture and lights. . .), as well as the World Trade Center, the Empire State building and other landmarks . . . simply standing on one of the museum’s (8th, 7th and 6th floor) terraces to look around and enjoy the breeze – not to mention the sculpture there too – was a huge thrill.

The many-floored opening exhibit, “America is hard to see,” w/ a title from Robert Frost, was terrific in the parts I saw, which I didn’t begin to do thoroughly. Instead, I walked through everything, for an overview of both the place itself and the art on view.

The Whitney will be a repeat destination!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

World Elephant Day

Today is “world elephant day.” Knowing it was coming, I thought about what I might do or write here to awaken people to the crisis, the very real possibility that African elephants in the wild may become extinct in our lifetime. I wanted to find just the right argument to dissuade the horrible people who crave ivory, and therefore the horrible poachers who slaughter elephants.

I wanted to stop reading about and seeing photos and videos of orphaned baby elephants, creatures who usually live with their mothers for years, and now are regularly found alone and grieving for their murdered mothers. (One baby, inconsolable, recently just died, despite the care he was getting in a sanctuary. It simply wasn’t enough to make up for his shattered life.)  In many cases, these orphaned babies see their families slaughtered; how can they possibly recover from that?

The truth is, if elephants will be saved from more trauma and possible extinction, it will take much more power (I don’t think mere persuasiveness works here) than I have, or than any single person has. The bracelets saying "burn the ivory" won't make a difference, nor will marches or letters to the editor... or world elephant days.  

Will the mad desire for money, truly the root of all evil, prevail? Will people continue to be heartlessly short-sighted? Will elephants disappear?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Of 2-piece swimsuits & William Wordsworth


Feeling catty (although real cats probably don’t ever feel this way!): Women of all ages should be free to dress any way they please. That’s a given. Even when how “they please” doesn’t become them and/or draws stares and maybe even titters.

Case in point: 2 truly elderly women at “our pool” recently. They both wore 2-piece swimsuits, in which they looked inappropriate. . . even pathetic. Now why did they choose those suits? The only ones they had on hand? Their favorite suits (from long ago)? Thought they looked good? All – or none – of those reasons?

In a way, I almost admire their guts for doing this, especially considering all the 16-year olds (give or take) in 2-piece suits, wandering around the pool. But maybe these women weren’t gutsy, just oblivious.

Even thought I’d still speak in their defense for garbing up as they did, I can also wish they hadn’t done it. And I do.


Come on, Bill: you’re with friends!  

Sorry, but I don’t buy this:

According to The Writer’s Almanac, “It was on this day in 1798 that the English Romantic poet William Wordsworth, while on a walking tour of Wales with his sister, Dorothy, saw the ruins of Tintern Abbey, which inspired his poem ‘Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798.’ Wordsworth claimed the 1,200 lines came to him with the greatest of ease, entirely in his head.

“He said: ‘No poem of mine was composed under circumstances more pleasant for me to remember than this. I began it upon leaving Tintern, after crossing the Wye, and concluded it just as I was entering Bristol in the evening, after a ramble of four or five days with my notes. Not a line of it was altered, not any part of it written down till I reached Bristol.’ ”

OK, it was another era, when people weren’t wrapped up in their “devices” and current events . . . but knowing how hard I find it to memorize others’ poems, or parts, I just can’t believe Wordsworth composed and remembered as he has described it. (Nor do I remember liking ‘Tintern Abbey’ very much, way back in British Lit.)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Much-needed reminder: Simplicity!

from Henry David Thoreau's Walden, published on this date in 1854 and coming at just the right time in my self-indulgently too-busy life, which leaves too little time for me to pay attention to the people (incl pets!) and issues that matter most to me.

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail …

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude …

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hour …

A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.

Friday, July 31, 2015

RIP Cecil, et al . . . & the making of animal advocates

Cecil the lion, whose cruel death has dominated recent news, and deservedly so. Like so many animals, lions are endangered, their numbers steadily dropping. Not even Cecil’s protected and studied status were enough to save him from a throwback big-game- hunting . . . dentist. An ignominious end of a majestic creature by a far lesser creature. Isn’t that too often the way?

And yes, the elephants and rhinos, poached almost out of existence for their tusks and horns. The lure of money breeds still more lesser creatures, who have no sense of history, no compassion for fellow beings and probably no regrets. It is an awful world when money talks, as it does so often.

Cecil’s death was wrong and horrible. But so are the deaths of billions of chickens, raised only to be slaughtered, and often tortured on their way to that. Unlike Cecil, who at least had a (short) lifetime in a natural habitat, chicken on factory farms do not. It’s seen as a great humane victory when corporations agree to enlarge their cages or – wonder of wonders – allow them to be “cage free” (which often still doesn’t mean in the sunshine or able to do barnyard things chickens have done for eons).
Pigs, known to be intelligent and social, may have the worst of it: “purpose bred,” they are seen as nothing more than potential food. Were pigs ever allowed just to be born and live out their lives?
And on and on. So yes, R.I.P. Cecil, only the most visible right now of all the world’s animals who are mistreated, abused, tortured, slaughtered, eaten.  


And this related thought: Animal advocates often wonder how most other people seem able to ignore the short, horrible lives of so many animals at the hands of humans. During the last month or so, when I’ve missed going regularly to the animal shelter to care for the cats, I’ve realized how that can be.

Frequent proximity to animals in need, such as the shelter cats, increases my wish to help them. The more I help, the more I want to help. Maybe “vicious cycle,” as negative as that phrase sounds, describes it. It’s like being (voluntarily) caught in a spiral that keeps growing. More contacts w/ animals leads to more thinking (worrying, brooding . . .) about them, and a firmer resolve to do more.
Innocently breaking that pattern by freeing myself on weekday mornings has had the effect of cutting down on the time I spend thinking and worrying about the animals I’m not seeing as much. Reading about the shelter cats, in Yahoo and email, has less of an effect on me.  

Transfer all that to humans at large. In general, they don’t see animals in pain or desperate straits and they don’t physically work to make a difference for animals in need. So whatever they hear or read on the subject is much more abstract and more easily forgotten. They probably have a store of good-sounding platitudes to get through a conversation about animals in need, and move on to something more pleasant and less demanding.

So to turn people into more sensitive animal advocates on a practical level, it may take somehow putting them into a live situation where they must see and hear and take positive action . . . which as I said above, can become a habit that keeps growing.    

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Vacation separation & pink eye

Painful family separation

Trauma time: travel without Harry and Billy, our cats (a joke of a way to say it, since we’re their servants!).  Anyway, time for a seashore weekend ~ and the 2 Summers boys will board at their vets’ and have their check ups while there. Not what they’d choose to do!  

Change stresses cats, who prefer to stay home with all their traditions and comforts, and their people (as in us!). To have to live in a metal cage, albeit padded w/ towels and blankets . . . they say no thanks.

Worst part of all: both boys have known for days something is afoot. Our voices and patterns are different, and clothes are laid out here and there. The suitcase’s appearance proves that everything they feared is true. The only question is, when. They know they’ll be caught and loaded into carriers, then driven to WTAH. But when? And so they’re ready to run at our first suspicious move. And run they will, even though the inevitable (catch) will happen.  

Once there, Harry grimly settles in for the duration. He doesn’t attempt to charm or win friends in any way, with the result that he’s thought of as unfriendly (and he may also take a swipe or two. . . ). Billy the lovebug is wholly different: he’s reach-out friendly, making the most of it -- accepting attention and building a reputation as the sweetie he can’t help but be.

Next Monday morning, we’ll pick them up and the rest of the day will be a family reunion. It can’t come soon enough.


Not pretty in pink . . . eye

This month I learned that “pink eye,” which till now I’ve only heard and read about, means bloodshot eyes, gunky and crusty stuff, especially in the morning, and a punched- in-the-eye look. And it doesn’t feel so hot either.

In other words, I have pink eye, in my left eye -- which prevents me from using my contact lens in the only eye where I use one for monovision. It has also prevented me from swimming laps this week, although we’ve been getting ready for our weekend away, so there wasn’t really time.

But speaking of laps, and the pool, I’m assuming that’s where I got pink eye, though I have no idea how. I wear goggles and shower after laps. . . who knows. Lower resistance, I guess.  

And meanwhile, our court’s being repaved, which has prevented easy access to the car, parked in the next court over. It will be good to escape the sound of jack hammers and the sight of orange cones and dug-up debris all over. And the Summers boys will be saved from the incessant noise. In a big way, we couldn’t have timed this getaway better.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cloudy allegory, 'sunlessness,' pool bliss

Is there an allegory here somewhere?

Above, to my left, a large dark cloud hovers over the pool and its surrounding trees. Seeming intimidated, the sun peeps through occasional openings before being obscured again. From the gray bubble-cloud, a scattering of filmy pale clouds break free and move across the sky toward a huge, bright white cloud, pulling them to itself, draining the dark cloud of any remaining light. Then, still darker but somehow diminished, the threatening cloud moves away, and the day, now afternoon, becomes sunny.  


'Traditional' torture isn't necessary

It wouldn’t take long to break me down. No classic instruments of torture would be needed for a bloodless victory. Just withhold sunshine. Day after gray day without sun, and I’d crack fast. Even in the pool, where I love to be, I perk up when I can tell the sun just came out. I’m swimming laps when suddenly the patterns in the water are sharp, lined in yellow. I feel warmer, more energetic and ‘can-do.’ Without the sun, whether in or out of water, I may dutifully do what’s needed – but it’s not the same.   



On my back, I watch a dark smudge
move across the gray sky --
an early warning system
for the storms to follow --

What do I care, already wet,
contentedly lapping up and down,
a manatee wannabe?

Esther Williams: so yesterday!
Now I want water creature-ness,
to move smoothly through
my own medium.

--July '15


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Life without mirrors . . . & elephants

“How simple life becomes when things like mirrors are forgotten.” – Daphne duMaurier

Imagine how wonderful it would be to have no mirrors – no reminders of what we don’t like or need to fix or want to hide from. No idea of what to powder or touch up. No periodic checks on (fill in the blanks). No worries about what we look like now . . . compared with 10 minutes ago, or less.

Imagine the time we’d save, not to mention the worry and self-consciousness, if  judgments about us were based on our brains, our humor or friendliness, . . . in other words, the parts of us that are comparatively permanent. 

“How simple” – for sure.  >sigh!<


It is possible that in our lifetime, African elephants could go extinct. Painful as it is just to say that, the very real possibility it will happen because of human greed and cruelty is far worse. These awesome and majestic animals may disappear from our world simply because they have tusks that some crazies will kill them for, to sell to other crazies who will make them into ivory trinkets.

A piece of ivory jewelry or an ivory statuette is nothing more than the symbol of a innocent elephant who was brutally murdered for those tusks. No ivory tchotchke in the world is worth taking an elephant’s life.

And yet, the demand continues so the murders continue. Nor does it stop there. The deaths of adult elephants invariably means the creation of orphaned baby elephants, creatures who lose their mothers – and the wisdom and culture they traditionally receive from them during their years together.

Now, finally, the media is filled w/ stories about the elephant poachers, the orphaned babies, the so-far ineffectual attempts to halt poaching and redirect the craze for elephant tusks, and ivory.   

The largest land mammals in the world, African elephants are intelligent, family-oriented and family-dependent. They directly affect their landscape as seed dispersers, influencing forest composition for other species. But now, elephant populations are in crisis, w/ as many as 30,000 killed annually to feed demand for the illegal ivory trade, as the World Wildlife Fund ( and other animal welfare organizations report.

Elephants are in extreme danger. The danger is so severe that if current poaching rates continue, elephants will go extinct in our lifetime,” according to the Humane Society International (

The facts and numbers are there. The warnings are clear. But it’s also clear that no one and no government is doing enough, fast enough, to stop the slaughter of African elephants.   


Monday, July 6, 2015

Near-perfect pool day, pit bulls, maundering

In the swimming pool described last time, today was just about perfect. Why? Mainly because the sun was shining most of the time and besides that, the water temp was 81. The lap lanes weren't crowded or clogged by swimmers slower than I, and in fact for the first time this season, I spent most of my time in the "medium" (speed) lane. It was the kind of day -- the combination of variables -- that made me feel I could go on and on, long past my 9 round trips for a half-mile.

A family member used to say "one day at a time," and today I thought "one lap at a time," without working toward a number goal or worrying about whether I'd make it. So finishing 4 round trips meant nearly half-way -- if I cared about that, and then by 7-1/2 there were just 1-1/2 to go -- but who was counting?! Nine came easily.    


A daily online treat is looking at The Dodo (, an all-animal site with short stories, images and videos about animals around the world. Since it began, a couple years ago now, I'd estimate, it has clearly been against Sea World and creatures like orcas and dolphins in captivity. I agree with that -- and with another campaign I think is underway: always showing pit bulls as lovable, "sweet," long-suffering dogs. They may be all those things; in fact, I hope they are, unlikely as it seems.

But since pitties have been the object of breed-specific legislation that stereotypes and assumes the worst of them, affecting where they might live, I say, go Dodo! Help balance all the false assumptions about pits with frequent stories about what wonderful dogs they are. If this is reverse discrimination, fine: call it affirmative action.


A neat word: "maunder" -- 1. To talk aimlessly. 2. To walk aimlessly.

Some people and some days are meant for maundering.


Friday, July 3, 2015

PS to intro, pool overview, an aphorism

I neglected to say in the first entry that this will be a no-frills blog: mostly text, long and short, with little concern about including images. It won't be letter-perfect, but sketchy, "drafty" and ruminative. It will be frankly 1st person, in contrast to the 2 earlier, 3rd person blogs that focused outward, on animals. I may be the only reader here, and that's OK.

One recurring subject here will be swimming at the community pool where we go on weekdays -- weather, water temp and other commitments permitting -- to swim laps. Earlier today, it was announced that this is the 7th week of the season, and I was amazed to hear that since this is just our 2nd week. But I think that count included a few weekends-only before schools closed and the pool opened daily. Then frequent rainy days and various other reasons kept us from getting into the water till the week of June 22.

It's a beautiful pool -- especially empty or w/ just lappers in the water! There's also a separate baby pool and a diving pool, besides the wading pool attached to the Olympic sized "main pool." The numerous chaises, chairs, benches, pavilions and tents are set in green lawns w/ lots of tall old trees. No wonder day camps come here, as well as numerous regulars once it opens to the public at noon (after 2 hours for lappers and maybe baby pool stuff too; not sure). The noon "parade" is fun watching, esp. the camp kids, marching in with their giant backpacks, wearing every bright color imaginable. They quickly line up to buy food -- which is surprisingly varied and good here -- then they often walk past us as we dry off in the sun, typically carrying french fries, sometimes navigating the grass and talking w/ friends while dipping their faces into the irresistible fries. No one has tripped yet.  

Aphorism:  a terse saying embodying a general truth or astute observation expressed in a concise and witty way. -- As I age into my own infirmities, I gain sympathy for others'.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Here comes blog # 3

And so begins blog # 3, this one, as its name suggests, about anything and everything. What freedom!

Blog # 1, AnimalBeat, taught me a lot both about blogging and animals. I loved it -- till I noticed I was getting fewer comments/followers/whatever, and I wasn't changing the world, or even to my knowledge, making it any better for animals. Plus, new technical ground rules were threatened and I wasn't willing to struggle to master them.

So after about 3 years and hundreds of posts, I let AnimalBeat lapse (with no storm of protest from readers). Besides, I had been invited to blog on the Star-Ledger's online pets page and had made a start. (I didn't stick to pets there, but discussed all animals of interest, and happily that went un-challenged.) In writing those longer posts, I learned lots more about blogging, especially the mechanics behind images, embedding links and other blog ingredients.

The S-L blog ended last February, and since then I've been thinking over how to keep track of my ideas, reactions, questions, gripes, poems, causes, concerns. . . and it finally dawned on me: another blog!  For the first time, this one won't deal exclusively with animals, although since animal welfare is my passion, animals are bound to come up here, often.

Here goes!