I’ve been meaning to get back in the weekly (at the very least) habit of writing on my blog again, partly because I am finding Instagram and its algorithms are not a conducive vehicle for deeper connection. That requires time — analog time — slow time, a slowing down of my time, a slowing down of your time. Social media has a propensity to speed us up rather than slow us down. It’s designed for short quick bursts of momentary engagement. Fine for a brief spell, but not really how I want to live my life. And by that I mean “spend my day,” for as Annie Dillard has written “how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.” I want deeper dialogues, discourses, discussion. I want more intentional connection. I love the luxury of aimless scrolling, don’t get me wrong, it’s how I often tumble down the rabbit hole of exquisite and magical delights, BUT…then it turns in to digital over-saturation, fueling an urgency to participate in it at an ever more breakneck pace. And frankly? I’m not wired for that. Are you? How can my wiring recover from misfiring or have a chance to reboot if I don’t disconnect — from the universal tether that is the worldwide web that ensnares me with wiles, charms, and the promise of always something more. I have to look at it as corporate ownership of my time and headspace. My world shrunk to a tiny screen. Curated. Performative. Without purpose. And I believe we all need a purpose. Writing and sharing is mine.
I’ve been hesitant to share a favorite place we’ve been escaping to for the past few months, mainly because like the South Coast, its open space, deep soul, and serenity may not remain so if non-kindred spirits discover these still-tranquil-trying-to-hang-on-to-what-little-is-left farming communities. Places that follow the slower rhythms of nature, and the seasons, where there is a synchronistic dance that happens between the land and the placeholders who nurture it as it does them. It’s a little village called Shelburne Falls, home to the famous Bridge of Flowers. On our last visit there, we witnessed an unexpected autumn wedding on the bridge, complete with violinist, and a couple of witnesses. We joined the tiny group of spectators gathered around. Magic happens in Shelburne Falls. And not just in Shelburne Falls, but in Turners Falls and Buckland, and other hill-towns in the foothills of the Berkshires. Mountains, hills, woods, and streams and rivers, those are the landscapes buried in my body that sing me alive when I visit.
What saves places like Shelburne Falls, besides those of us kindreds who land there, is its beastly winter weather, frigid and with epic snowfalls. That and its distance from the sea coast, since the majority of the population in the Eastern US lives along the seaboard. Fortunately for us, more folks love the sea and despise the snow. Let’s just not let slip about the spectacular springs, summers and autumns, shall we?
High points in Shelburne Falls for us:
Our delightful Airbnb hosts Marjorie and Peter, walking everywhere and cars stopping for us when we cross the streets, the Blue Rock Cafe and their welcoming staff (we’ve yet to be disappointed), the Sunday afternoon music jam in front of the coop, a morning latte from Mocha Maya’s and old-fashioned donuts from Foxtown Diner. Throughout the day we wander around the neighborhoods, and across the river, up and down, strolling through neighborhoods that are actually inhabited by local, year-round residents. And long about mid-afternoon, we make our way over to Floodwater Brewing for our midday porter, sometimes out on the back porch overlooking the river, sometimes sitting at the bar, chatting with Zack or a local musician, like Frankie. (Still hoping to fix him up with my friend, Diane.) Even our pooch, Bob acts like he belongs in Shelburne Falls. But he’s not telling anyone.
One of my favorite memoirs from years ago was by an NPR writer, Carol Wasserman titled Swimming at Suppertime. It was about life on the wrong side of Buzzards Bay, in her case Wareham, which for me is actually the right side. But it’s always stuck with me, the title and subtitle — she was mourning the loss of her husband, in between writing, living year-round, and swimming (at suppertime) with her lady friends in the gritty town of Wareham, Massachusetts — a stone’s throw (if you’ve got a good arm) — from chi-chi Cape Cod.
Me, I live on Cape Cod. I grew up here in between my father’s military tours in other places. And Wareham, Marion, Mattapoisett, and beyond — the Route 6 West corridor along Buzz Bay — is more like the Cape Cod I remember from childhood and into my college years. It was more colorful, more real, more of a struggle, and more of a delight for those who survive here year-round, because we were all in the same boat.
We took a ride to Wellfleet a couple of weeks ago, hugging the back roads that wind along the backside of Route 28 on our way east. It was a Saturday on the brink of the full moon, and I was feeling hemmed in, crowded, suffocated, wanting to climb out of the box of this island-peninsula — serene and accessible open space is becoming rarer here, speed and traffic more prevalent. I want slow, meandering, and I feel more of that on the other side, even in the eastern Massachusetts land of more strip malls and industrial parks and more traffic — the sky and roads just seem to open up a bit more, I don’t feel as trapped.
I wanted to be back over the bridge — but as we rolled further along to our destination, I started feeling lighter, a little less encumbered — noticing the undulating marshlands and bogs with the crimsons, golds, and russets of a coastal autumn. As we moved beyond Chatham and Orleans, and on out towards Eastham and Wellfleet, I began to relax more. Off-season on the Outer Cape can be close to desolate, a stark contrast to what it is in the summer. It can truly feel like the edge of the world. Wellfleet was quiet, but not quite yet shifted in to winter mode. We parked down near the wharf, and walked up to and across Uncle Tim’s Bridge, for a walk around the tiny island that sits in the brackish water that empties into Wellfleet Harbor. Ah, peace, although not quite on my “right side of the bay,” but for that morning, for me, it worked. I relaxed, enjoying the view, the air, the outdoors, the ground beneath my feet, and contemplated what it must be like for people who don’t have either the time, or the means for these therapeutic escapes. Wellfleet is an example of what the rest of the cape has become — more of a playground for the wealthy, than a home for the rest of us.
I bought my first-ever, brand-new car almost two years ago and I did it before turning 60! Quite the feat for me.
A Subaru Forester, stick shift no less. Built-in theft protection nowadays. Klaire, from Planet Subaru in Hanover worked with us, and while they aren’t always perfect, they’ve been a pleasure to work with. We bought into the total maintenance/protection plan they offered us because it really forces us to keep up on regular, routine (as opposed to belated, e.g., broke-down) maintenance.
Sooooo, to get to the point, we recently had the 18-month service, and Planet provides a loaner car if you drop off your vehicle for the day.
Our plan was to explore the Bridgewater Triangle area between Bridgewater and Attleboro, winding through the back roads of Hanson, Abington, and beyond. Believe it or not, there are actually still scenic back roads in eastern Massachusetts, despite open space being rapidly gobbled up by endless, repetitive, big-box-store strip mall developments.
Our first stop was donuts at Sandy’s Coffee Corner in Hanson and they did not disappoint. The counter attendant was a friendly lady, the real deal, no pretensions here, just good old-fashioned donuts and bakery. I may be a food snob (among other things), but I like down-to-earth real people, who don’t let the groovy success of their place go to their heads. ‘Nuff said on that.
Next up were twisting roads that took us over to Bridgewater, home of Bridgewater State College, surrounded by farm country, surrounded by — you guessed it — strip malls and industrial parks! But it’s amazing how you can connect to the wild unknown in unlikely ways, through people and places. For me/us (the man was with me), this is usually through food and craft — whether craft beer, craft coffee, craftwork, and more.
In Bridgewater it was coffee at the Better Bean, with latte art created by the charming barista, Peri, who is also a young Reiki practitioner. I loved the fact that her business cards were hand drawn and written by her, and the energy she radiated was so welcoming and nurturing, a loving healer. The coffee and sandwiches are stellar, the interior a bit broody, and sparse, but it has a good coffee shop vibe going on.
Next stop was Black Hat Brew Works. We had the stout which was quite good, and we would have stayed longer, but one thing we’ve discovered on our jaunts is that no matter how excellent the product may be, if the hospitality is nothing remarkable to write about, we tend to move on, and move on we did, to Crue Brew Brewery in Raynham. It’s the heart of this story, a family-run brewery owned by brothers Keith and Kevin Merritt, along with Kevin’s wife, Tammy. It’s in an industrial park, as are many breweries, and it is a large space, perfect for many of the events they host — music, yoga, cornhole, and more with the friendliest brewermaster and hardest-working owners you could ask for. Both Kevin and his wife still work other jobs, Kevin as a schoolteacher in Boston. They are also raising two adorable girls who get in on the act, and their dog reminds me of our dog, Bob!
Kevin was happy to share his crue brew mojo magic with us, and I find it particularly special that he is a hometown Raynham boy, who was determined to keep the business there. Needless to say, we bellied up to the gorgeous bar, while Randy, the redneck brewmaster (his words, not mine!), pulled some porters for us. We had some good laughs, and I learned how cans are filled, sealed and labeled. According to Kevin, Randy belly rolls the labels on!! Joking, joking! Crue Brew was definitely one of the high points of our day, and while we popped into a couple more spots on our ramble, nothing quite measured up to our Crue Brew experience. And on that note, hope to see you there on our next visit. Looking forward to some oatmeal or maybe a coffee milk stout, Randy and Kevin! And don’t worry, if you’re into IPA’s and lighter brews, Crue Brew has plenty of those!
Saturday, October 19, probably around the same time, my niece got married on a beach in Kitty Hawk, NC while Jennifer Lawrence married in a mansion in Newport, RI. Needless, to say, my niece was the star in my story. She looked like a Greco-Roman goddess, and as a Helen, she was definitely one who would have launched a thousand ships. Most of our family were there, with a few exceptions, us being two of them. Before the wedding, I had lots of mixed feelings about not going, but I loved how everyone kept me in a texting loop so I could feel a part of things, and what with photos and everyone’s updates, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
So, what did we do instead to celebrate her day up North here? We took off for Westport Vineyards, one of our favorite destinations. On the way, we stopped off in Padanaram, a sweet little hamlet in South Dartmouth, that’s part of the town of Dartmouth. Less than ten years ago, Padanaram was a shell of what it is now. Rather abandoned and forlorn. Not anymore, it is experiencing a fabulous revival, a bit upscale, and while not totally to my taste (I like a little more grit and diversity), I appreciate it, and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a chance to live there.
One unexpected delight on this venture was happening upon the newly opened shop of Shara Porter Designs. We were thrilled to stumble upon her here — to me she’s one of the original trailblazing artists of the New Bedford Artists and Lofts Renaissance. Once upon a time, we had a wee store in downtown Hyannis, and Shara’s was one of the lines we carried, along with one of her earliest studio mates, Moontide Dyers.
Shara screen-prints quirky, offbeat images onto vintage cloth, leather and vinyl accessories— pocketbooks, keyfobs, wallets, suitcases, you name it. She also used to do clothing but her primary focus now is accessories, — vintage, custom, and new. Her convertible crossbody bags are the best — functioning as a waist pack, a wristlet, or a crossbody. I could not stop thinking of the one I wanted once we left her shop, kicking myself for not just buying it already! But, it’s a good excuse for a sooner-rather-than-later return trip. The shop is bright and beautiful, and the product lines are super affordable for the average budget. I can’t wait to see how it all evolves.
To be perfectly frank, moving on the Westport Vineyards, was sort of an anti-climax, but if you’re going for an anti-climax, it’s the best kind. Gorgeous weather, lush vineyards and rolling farmland, coupled with bonhomie, and cousins out for their monthly wine club, what’s not to love? The wines are light, crisp and refreshing, the tasting rooms are the best I’ve experienced on the South Coast, and enjoying a glass of wine outside on their grounds is heaven for me. The view, the light, the air; an effervescent moment that lingers long after it’s over. Thank you Shara and Westport for a beautiful, ordinary sparkling day!
It’s been almost a month since I posted last, my mother’s 78th birthday is this coming Saturday, and I’ll bring cupcakes for a (hopefully) candlelit vigil that day at dusk.
Already moving through month 3 without her presence, and for the most part I try not to dwell in the sad places in my mind. I talk to her a lot. Eventually I’ll allow myself to think more, probably to cry more (it’s there, I just don’t want to get started because I’m never sure when I’ll stop), but for now I have the conversations with her that I didn’t have when she was here. As my friend Diane says, “there is presence even in absence.”
It’s October, the month when the veil between our worlds, Mom’s and mine, thins a little. That belief comforts me.
Do I want you to become a vehicle for my grief? Some days, yes. Like Fridays, the day of the week my mother died. Seven weeks today. I was reading an article on the Sabbath that Oliver Sacks wrote shortly before he died, and besides the fact that I agree with him about keeping a Sabbath, I also thought of how much my mother would like the idea that she died on a Friday, the eve of the Jewish Sabbath. Blog, we both know how much Rhoda loved all things Jewish and Judaica. We even talked about how possibly her Davis grandfather, Frank, may actually have been a Davidovich at one time. But I’m straying off-topic.
The point here is I don’t always know what to write in you, so many times I just don’t. Then I remember I have dozens of sketchbook journals I could cull through to share bits and pieces of here, which I may consider eventually, although I do like something fresh.
Oh sure, when I’m driving or walking or listening to music and my imaginary conversations with myself start, the ideas flow, the words spill all over, but I usually have no way of transcribing until I get home, and you know how that goes. By then, I’ve moved on to something else and the solitary act of writing is neglected. It’s hard to write, and I don’t want to turn into a blogger who believes her mission is to teach others or enlighten them or constantly be a source of wisdom. I just want to share a few words now and then so that someday, somewhere little bits of my life and the lives of those who have touched mine will be noticed. And maybe remembered. Because none of us want to be forgotten.
Since my mother’s death, every Friday eve around the time she died, I do a vigil. This past Friday, there was a light rainfall, our gardens were iridescent in the moonlight, and the fresh air and scent of the rain just felt so good…so I did it outside in my nightie, standing with my arms wide open and looking at the sky. Sometimes my tears get stuck so I let the rain fall on me to wash away some of my grief.
A person is a sum of many parts, of all the lives they’ve touched. There is no all good, all bad, we are many spirits interwoven into one giant one. My mother had a giant spirit. Personality Plus. A lot of heartache and drama; also a lot of joy even if she wasn’t always aware of it. And sometimes we weren’t.
But looking back, I remember the way my two year old son’s eyes lit up, overjoyed to see my parents walking towards us at the county fair — a surprise trip from Cape Cod to Vermont.
My mother and I fought a lot, said cruel things, but there was always love, a connection that I couldn’t break no matter how hard I tried to break the apron strings. Heck, I’m still tied to my Dad’s and I’ve never even seen him in an apron.
But my mom. I was lucky to have her. I had her for fifty more years than she had her mother. She was seven when my grandmother Lottie Mae died. It defined her life and it defined ours. She was fierce, possessive, couldn’t let anything go, perhaps because she lost the most precious thing to a child at a very young age.