Monday, June 30, 2014

Landscape Lullaby

Most of the day was spent traveling north on Interstate 81.  Even a good 8 hours of sleep wasn't enough to keep me from being lulled to sleep by the rolling green hills and impressive mountains that were found in every direction I cast my eye.  Fortunately, I wasn't driving.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Post Game

After five games and two days of lacrosse in Nashville Mary's team had the tournament championship t-shirt in their hands and smiles on their faces.  The team didn't face much competition the entire weekend,  but did get a good game out of their last opponent of the tournament.  There was a great deal of pushing and shoving along with a few yellow cards, but at the end both teams came together to shake hands and offer "good game" greetings.

The parents on the sidelines were much more vocal in the last game as they played unofficial referee for every minute of the 30 minute game. They certainly didn't agree with every call made but in the end their smiles were almost as wide as those of the players on the team.

Within an hour of winning the championship Mary was fast asleep in the back seat as her mother/aunt entourage drove east on Route 40 to make our way back home.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Way Back Then

While sitting on the sidelines of my niece's lacrosse game today I noted a pink can sitting in the cup holder of a canvas chair to my left.  I did a double take.  It couldn't be.

"Is that a Tab that you're drinking?" I asked.

"It sure is!" was the reply.

What followed was a solid three-minute conversation of the good ol' days of Tab; the only diet drink there was before the rollout of Diet Coke.  The two of us reminisced about way back then and other drinks that have faded from view like Fresca.  We also decided that knowing so much about something like Tab or Fresca most certainly dates us a little.

I could describe the woman who sat next to me on the field as middle-aged, but I won't.  You see I too was a pretty big Tab drinker back in the day.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Mother Church of Country Music

I spent a little over an hour in Nashville's Ryman Auditorium this morning.  My self-guided tour began with a 10-minute video outlining the history of the building narrated by Trisha Yearwood. As a fan of country music I was happy to get a chance to hear about the good ol' days at the Ryman when fans packed the auditorium and the streets to listen to the one of a kind sounds of the Grand Old Opry. 

Thanks to the video it was easy to stroll around the venue and picture those old wooden benches filled up on a hot summer night- filled with sweating fans of all ages, eager for the show to start.  It's almost possible to hear the click of cowboy boots as the man in black walks across the stage and announces himself to the crowd- "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash."  I can also picture Miss Minnie Pearl flower hat and all as she yells out a big 'ol "How-Dee!!"

The stained glass windows in the back of the hall speak to the building's origins as a tabernacle for Samuel Porter Jones.  They also help solidify the Ryman's other title as The Mother Church of Country Music.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Travel Report

Road trip stats:

Miles between Alexandria, VA and Nashville, TN: 670

Time spent in the car: 11 hours

Traffic report:  The usual insanity of traffic welcomed us in Northern Virginia.  Knoxville has a rush hour that most all of the nation would envy.

Trivia learned along the way:  Dan Akroyd appeared in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Athletic car events:  A new version of Corn Hole- throwing popcorn out of the window from the front passenger seat into Mary's mouth that was strategically placed out of her own window in the back.  It took a few tries but the corn went in the mouth hole!

Hotel Report:  So far, so good.  There's country music playing in the bar downstairs and the beds are comfy.

Goodnight y'all.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My Maters

My friend over at Walking the Dog is into the gardening thing.  She has a little plot of land at one of the community gardens in these parts and starts her plants from seeds way before planting time arrives.  It seems like a whole bunch of work to me.  Don't get me wrong, I like gardens, I just don't think I'd like getting in the car to go tend to my plants on a regular basis.  But I do like fresh vegetables- especially those fabulous tomatoes that are a summer staple.

Lucky for me there were a few extra tomato plants this spring, so back in May I walked upstairs to my friend's classroom and chose a plant for my very own.  I picked a variety known as the Mortgage Lifter Tomato.  M.C. Byles of Logan, WV first introduced this tomato in the 1940s after he crossed different tomato varieties for 6 years until he came up with what he deemed to be the best.  The plant should produce a large pink fruit with a delicious, sweet taste. 

I stood outside admiring my growing plant this evening.  I watched the water trickle out of the gray metal watering can and fall upon the growing green leaves.  Two small green tomatoes have started to take shape meaning that I must be doing something right. 

The final results won't be ready for another month or so.  In the meantime I'm watering and waiting patiently for the first fabulous slice of summer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Thread

Come with me as I time travel back to this year's Poem in Your Pocket day...

I was so excited about the day that I sent the following email out the night before:

Hi Friends!
Tomorrow, April 24th, is Poem in Your Pocket Day!  Today, I'm sharing with you the poem I'll be carrying around.  Hope you like it and that you put one in your pocket too.
:) Mary
I shared Starlings in Winter by Mary Oliver.  I had run across the poem a few days before this year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day and was once again in awe of the words on the page

…they are acrobats
the freezing wind.
now, in the theater of air,
swing over buildings…

Theater of air… I love that.  And in my excitement over the well-written verse I felt a need to share the poem and the day with a few friends.

One never knows what will happen when an idea is thrown out into the universe.  The truth is I never expected anything in return.  My intent was to share something I’d found and loved with a group of gals I’ve grown up with over the last 30 years.  Us girls- there are about 10- are united through common experiences.  Although our ages vary from 48 to 52 years, we shared at least a semester or two together on the banks of the St Mary’s River.  Many of us were English majors- only three were not, choosing to study Philosophy, Sociology, or Economics instead.  No matter the major, we all spent four years at a small liberal arts college located in surely one of the most idyllic waterfront locations in the state of Maryland. 

In the time since that shared experience we’ve spent a lot of time together.  There have been a lot of laughs, drinks, and what feels like one endless conversation about any old thing that came to mind.  We’ve danced at each other’s weddings, toasted in many a new year, and supported one another through the struggles of parenthood, divorce and loss.  The gift of friendship I have with these gals always makes me smile.

The messages in my inbox piled up that day and as the responses grew so did the smile on my face and the warmth, love and admiration in my heart.  In the end 35 emails were exchanged.   Twenty-two poems were shared and, although I don’t have the hard data to prove it, I’d say everyone who participated in my little poem project went to bed feeling like they’d received a hug or two from afar.  I sure did. 

Robin did her best to sum up everyone’s words in one compilation poem:

Chunky and noisy--I feel my boots
as though I had wings

Yours is the earth and everything in it
For it is in giving that we receive

May you open your eyes to water, water waving forever
From which the tender green shoots of new life emerge
I want to learn how to purr
Sometimes even a single feather's enough to fly

A pal's last need is a thing to heed
Let the sun beat on our forgetfulness
Let the storm wash the plates

What is all this juice and all this joy?

Remember: sticks and stones may break your bones
but names will never hurt you

Oh somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright
But there is no joy in Mudville--
It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart

A song for thee amid the farthest sky

I am circling around God, that ancient tower

I love my job! I love the pay!

And which is more: You'll be a Man my son!

On April 25th the email exchange continued.  This time there were no poems to read- only heartfelt thanks to the group for keeping the poetry coming all day long.  We hadn’t just communicated with one another- some reached out in different directions by sharing poems with co-workers, family members, and even our former English professor.  My dad shared a poem that he had written about the ending of the Orioles’ baseball season a few years ago.  Jeannie’s mom added a poem as well. And then there was Michael Glaser, one of our college English professors and former Poet Laureate for the state of Maryland.  How pleased he must have been to see his former students spending their day exchanging poetry back and forth on the Internet.

He responded:
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.          
                                            …William Stafford

I treasure that you and your "St. Mary's Girls" keep hold of that thread!

And so, thirty years later, we’d come full-circle with one last lesson from Michael.  I savored his words and let a thousand images of those St. Mary’s Girls swirl around in my head.  I was home in Alexandria but I was sure I could see the sun spilling oranges, reds and yellows onto the St. Mary’s River as it dipped below the horizon.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Summer Porch

Tonight's summer evening takes me back to the many nights I spent sitting on my grandmother's front porch.  After dinner was eaten and dishes were done we always ended up gathered on the screened-in porch that stood across the front of her cedar-shingled house.  A few chairs were scattered about, along with a double glider bench, and a wooden porch swing. 

With the heat of the night's meal hanging in the un-air-conditioned house the porch provided cool relief and a place to talk about the day or anything else that came to mind.  Mostly I just listened and watched the adults as they chatted, laughed and rocked or swung as the last golds, oranges, and yellows of the sun disappeared below the horizon of the cornfield next to the house.  Before long the yellow sunlight was replaced by the yellow glow of flickering fireflies as they danced in the front yard.  That was my cue to grab a Mason jar- ready with air holes poked through the top-and run out the front door and down the three giant cement stairs to catch as many lighting bugs as I could. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Different Kind of Sunday Night

Pardon me while I gloat just a little more about the fun of summer vacation...

Those who know me well understand, sort of, my dislike of Sunday nights.  Just seeing the clock ticking on an episode of 60 Minutes is enough to depress me.  That show is a clear sign that Sunday, and all the freedom it brings, is coming to an end.  The clock ticks on the show but for me it ticks away the weekend.

But then there's summer vacation.  Sundays don't matter so much then.  One day looks pretty much like the next during the summer, so that ticking clock doesn't upset me one little bit.  In fact, on this first Sunday of summer vacation the clock only reminds me to make sure the alarm is off tomorrow and every day after that until sometime in late August.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


On Tuesday evening, with just three days of school left, I found myself frowning at the sight of the fireworks trailers that had suddenly appeared the shopping center parking lot.  It didn't seem possible that the festivities of Independence Day were slapping me in the face while I was still dragging myself into work each day.

The last few weeks of school can be tiresome for students and staff.  All eyes are fixed on the passing days of June.  The rhythm of the school year is broken as field trips; state testing and other end of the year activities are squeezed into three short weeks.  Mondays usually feel a long way from Friday, but in June the weeks fly by and before you know it the year is done.

By noon on Thursday the students were rolling out in a parade of yellow buses. The afternoon was spent working on the things that teachers get to do after all the teaching is done.  I covered my bookshelves in bright blue paper, cleared my desk and threw away notebooks and papers that students had left behind.

A few hours later I was back home after two separate happy hour engagements and began packing up for a weekend trip to Richmond.  I watched the dancing yellow flicker of the fireflies as they flew about in the darkening sky.  Summer's warm night air embraced me as I looked up at the clear skies and smiled ready to enjoy all that will come my way during the next 75 days of vacation.