Monday, November 30, 2009

amateur images

This is/was mid-day, believe it or not. I took a bike ride around Ocean Drive, and it was just so sparkly that I had to hop off and capture the scene. Or try. Not for you (sorry), but for me. And my camera's pretty basic, by digital standards — I'm just a regular betty — so that's no doubt why it looks like twilight. But when the camera fails, there's always the mental picture. And, sometimes, an imperfect image is better than the real thing anyway ... don't you think??

The point, I suppose (if there is one), is that venturing around Ocean Drive always, always takes my breath away. That's due in part to my being on a bicycle at the end of November, but still ... it's beautiful here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

first things first ...

That said, how about a story??

It's not a particularly good one — just one of those funny things that happens to anyone/everyone, then we kid ourselves that it matters, so we take time to write it down. But at least it'll paint a picture of who I am and where I'm at (in multiple senses), thus sparing us the awkwardness of introductions.

Besides, with Thanksgiving over, this poor little story (yes, the story) just ran out of time. Putting it here gives it a home, a purpose, a legacy of sorts ... okay, that sounds weird, if not totally anthropomorphic, but you'll see what I mean in about two seconds.

Pumpkin Story

I know, I know: Pumpkins connote jack-o-lanterns, and October is over. But they also connote Thanksgiving, i.e. pumpkin pie, so there’s still time — or not, like I said — for a pumpkin story.

We have a minor-league pumpkin tradition at our house; most of our holiday traditions are minor-league. Somehow, with time (age?), I’ve lost a good deal of enthusiasm for the holidays.

Anyway, there’s an exterior shelf of sorts above the back door of our old-if-not-quite-historic home here in Newport, Rhode Island. I'm not sure what to call this shelf in architectural terms. It's a ... shelf. And we like to put a row of small pumpkins upon it, one for each member of the family. I suppose it's the autumn equivalent of stockings hung by the chimney with care.

For as long as we’ve lived here — seven years, a blink by Newport standards — there have been five pumpkins: one apiece for my son, my daughter, my husband, myself and, of course, for our sweet dog P.

When our son left for college a few years back, we still hoisted a representative pumpkin. Then we lost P (the dog), for real, last June. Our daughter headed to college in September. However it happened — and we're still scratching our heads over it — we were back to “just the two of us” as Pumpkin Season ’09 arrived.

Despite lack of holiday enthusiasm, I spent twenty minutes choosing exactly the right pumpkins. Shape, even stem shape, was important, and four felt the right number. P’s number was retired, raised to the rafters in essence, although we did end up purchasing a fifth pumpkin (a big one), as it looked like it would make a great jack-o-lantern, something we hadn’t bothered carving in years. Maybe the big one was for P, who remains a large presence in absentia. In any case, four pumpkins went on the shelf over the back door.

Then, one evening soon after, as we were cleaning up the dinner dishes, my husband and I heard a bang, boom, bang. Someone had fallen down the back steps! We rushed out but saw no one … just a pumpkin lying on the walkway. My husband put it back on the shelf.

A few days later, I was by myself in the kitchen, mid-afternoon, and there was another thud, bang, boom. I was startled before remembering the pumpkins.

Why were they falling? Was it windier than usual? Or did this year’s bizarrely wet spring and summer result in round-bottomed rather than flat-bottomed pumpkin attributes?

While pondering this matter of earth-shattering significance, I looked out the window above my kitchen sink and happened to see the escapee pumpkin roll down the path, over a curb and into the driveway. It hesitated, then resumed rolling, making a slow-motion, right-hand turn toward the street. And our street is quite busy, so I ran out to save the little pumpkin from meeting a messy end.

At this precise moment, a group of young women — students from nearby Salve Regina University perhaps — were walking down the street, hidden from view by the tall bushes beside my/our driveway. I heard them chatting, then laughing ... hysterically.
The pumpkin had rolled across the sidewalk, passed within inches of their toes, and continued by making a second curve — completing an actual “S” curve — as if it were a tiny orange car backing out of my driveway. Or rolling downtown for a drink.

Dishrag in hand, I was right behind the pumpkin, and now we all shared a laugh … except the pumpkin, whom I picked up and planted firmly back on the shelf. It wasn't the same pumpkin that had taken the first fall, as it turns out. That one remained on high, recognizable by the gaping crack obtained during its own tumble.

So now two pumpkins were cracked, thus doomed to a future of moldiness and decay. Reluctantly, I lifted them down, set them by the trash barrel, then rearranged the remaining lonely-looking pair on the backdoor shelf.

And that’s when it dawned on me: The pumpkins were right. Two was the appropriate number — though, really, I'm unsure which family members ended up where or in what condition.

I do know we're planning on four (or five) stockings at Christmas.

And now you know a bit about me ....