Category Archives: my neighborhood

Dog walk in pix

With a special eye to the trees (after reading Mo’s recent post).

A series of violent thunderstorms barreled through the region yesterday, It feels like we survived something. Now the air clogs with humidity such that I can almost see steam rising off the sidewalks. Gonna make do with fans for as long as I can stand.

Later: do you see Finn in the shade?

Bibs and babs

K will be home tonight after ten days away. Ten days is a lot longer than six. I lost interest in food during this absence, which I can’t explain. Seems all I want to eat is an eight year old’s diet: yogurt, blueberries, pancakes, and cereal. I made granola. Finn got the rib eye.

When we returned from Denver all the boxes of my sister’s stuff felt oppressive — even the ones in the garage.

I emptied two more. To preserve the glorious and moving variety of my sister’s clip file, I’ve started on album on Flickr.

Writing stalls and twists in on itself. To “get to yes,” I have to reduce a task to its smallest component. Not “open laptop and log in” small — but almost.

Dog walks provide ballast. The flag iris, so regal last week, start to fade and wither while the Japanese iris rise up in tight buds or open flowers of the deepest purple. It’s a pretty time of year.

The way certain things back up while K is away can be managed –right? — the critical appointments, the hopes for a beach house rental in August. Assertive is what I’ll be. Instead of bitchy.

Meanwhile Father’s Day approaches. I know what I WON’T be buying. Check out the price on these swim trunks. I was blowing through Bloomingdale’s yesterday and this little ticket blew my fucking mind.

One of the neighborhood library kiosks had a book he’d enjoy. I took it. That will prompt me to deliver a handful of books in return. A win/win. No money exchanged.

Last thought: I now know that whenever trump travels, my mood takes a big hit. For that reason (and because Mo hadn’t heard of Randy Rainbow), I’ll leave you with this. Can’t wait to see what he does with London.

Jesus in the rubble

After the debris had been lifted and carted away, all that was left of the little yellow house was concrete — an impersonal litter devoid of any indicia of 40 or 50 years of living. I told myself that I would hold dear whatever little sign of life I found. Don’t ask me why.

First, I spied a disk of nylon tulle, scarlet against the grey debris like a splash of fresh blood. How did it survive when so little else did? During one of my trespasses, I’d come upon a pile of these in the basement — leftovers from a baby shower, perhaps? They were the perfect size to load with pastel-colored candies and tie up as a favor.

hipstamaticphoto-566341937.775817But mostly, there was rubble. No hemp. No copper. No stray nails. Nothing. When I squatted down near where one of the basement doors had been, however, I found four more things.

There was a hank of black cord, a padlock, and a dead mouse. I used the tulle to pick up the mouse. I would bury it later.

img_9538-1The house triggered thoughts about our predicament. Most of us operate under the shared hallucination that more is better, but developers and corporations do so with a vengeance. The old calculus of cost-benefit analysis (long-term consequences be damned) these days means risking the future of our planet.

The almighty dollar will float like limp lily pads when a super storm floods the new and enlarged basement. Money in the bank won’t slow the storm surge when a torrential, 100-year-storm hits. And, by the way, when will we stop calling storms that happen twice a year, ‘100 year storms’?

The almighty dollar won’t buy our grandchildren a future when water becomes the new oil and Ted Turner’s descendants own the Mississippi. Money will be rendered conspicuously useless in a barter economy. What do stocks and bonds mean to hoards of refugees fleeing drought or civil war? And when the pandemic comes, bleach will be the precious commodity.

Maybe the empty lot, still forlorn and naked in transition, suggests that you won’t want to live in a post-capitalist disaster zone — one bottle of bleach and a beaker being enough, if you catch my meaning.

The empty lot speaks to the break down of bodies, since we too will crumble into anonymous debris. But while the decay of flesh falls within the natural order of things, conspicuous and reckless consumption does not.

New lives will occupy this square of land —  lives of sorrow and triumph, pettiness and valor. Will they act as if we can consume and invent our way out of climate change? Or will they be willing to look at hard truths and buckle up? Am I?

And then, I found Jesus in the rubble. A piece of maroon felt about the size of a quarter appeared at my feet. I flipped it over to find Jesus. Half a scapular. This and the dead mouse somehow became emblems of ‘radical hope.’


A crescent moon winked through the branches as I walked home. The air was crisp. With a dead mouse and half a scapular in my pocket, I pulled an airing quilt off the yew in front of my house. After the grey debris and feelings of regret, the colorful patchwork moved my tired and clamped heart. This was yet another emblem, wasn’t it? One of love. One I hope will survive as a minor but meaningful legacy.

 

Little yellow house : after

Early on demolition day, I blindly pulled this quote by May Swenson as a writing prompt: “Am I the bullet / or the target / or the hand / that holds the gun?

The destruction was unexpectedly and utterly fascinating. Yes, there went the bedroom then the room with the radio, the staircase — but what an efficient and powerful brutality! I was no longer the target, I was the gun. Sometimes the bucket chewed on support beams like a hungry beast. Other times the operator used it to nudge weakened walls into collapse, not unlike a mother animal nudging her wayward young. How did the operator know when to grab and claw and when to shove and tip? I was the finger pulling the trigger.

It was 19 degrees that morning. Gloves off to use the camera, my fingers quickly froze. Finn had hopped up onto the rock wall at my back, so when he started shivering I could feel it immediately. Oh but I wasn’t ready to leave!

I slung my arm around the dog and pulled him close. Like a gory car accident that you can’t look away from, the floors and walls being compressed into rubble kept us standing by.

Close to dusk, I went back only to be shocked at the uniformity and anonymity of the debris. It seemed to consist only of wood and bits of insulation. Where did the bed springs go? The yellow velvet cushions of the couch? Naturally, not a chip of the praying figurines showed up, but the pink bathroom tiles? How did they so thoroughly vanish? The crocheted afghan that had occupied the end of one of the beds just hours earlier might as well have been vaporized.

There were two very large stuffed creatures, pierced and toppled in a gruesome fashion. There was a piece of wood (part of a closet wall?) on which an oil change had been noted. A coil of wire. A glove. But not much else except round back.

Since the basement was still intact after day one, I went back to see what I could grab, not quite remembering earlier rationales for restraint. Perhaps the linens? Maybe that strange collection of incense burners? But to no avail. The basement door gushed pieces of the caved-in house like a barfing mouth.

On the second day of demo, they wrecked the last of the wooden structure and removed most of the debris. Again the utter lack of identifying detail in what was left seemed physically inexplicable. How could there be so little evidence of all those things — of all those years of living?

I told myself that if I found anything I would treat it as something important.

And that will be the third (and final?) post about this wreckage. Incredibly enough, the prompt in today’s writing class was: “the empty lot was a constant reminder of…

The little yellow house : before

The house stood abandoned for close to a year. I grew weirdly attached to it. Protective of it, even.

Eventually, my curiosity led me ’round back, where both basement doors gaped open. I went in. On one side: hanks of rope, a stack of used lumber, and drawers full of old rolls of tape, bits of pipe, bolts and screws. Had the former man of the house been a plumber or were these the useful supplies that a handier, more self-reliant generation typically collected?

The cellar’s other side contained more personal items: a map of Italy, a metal wardrobe full of cloth, plates, a bundt pan, a crucifix. Or maybe, they were just more feminine. Next to a support-pillar, an open lawn chair by a shelf with clock and ashtrays spoke to retreat. A plumber who smoked?


I didn’t go upstairs until the second trespass. It was truly weird. The place looked as though someone had hurried out to a movie and would be back any minute. It certainly didn’t look like the house of someone who had died. Weren’t there children?

An umbrella tipped against the wall near the front door. The mantel populated with mementos. Sunlight flooding a dining room table, the hutch in the corner full of figurines and exactly the kind of coffee pot my sister had recently described. She wanted one.


The spooky impress of lives led and then gone. A shrine without a caretaker. A structure needing to be emptied and cleansed and no one to do it.

Yesterday, the postman told me that there were children — “the son was really weird.” He called the former inhabitant “one of the old Italian hold outs” — but I already knew that.

Week after week, Finn and I passed the house — its neglect and imminent demise notable.

Why wasn’t I taking anything? There were pots and pans! Crystal candy dishes! Hardware, blankets, linens and chairs! Shouldn’t I leave a note at the very least and offer to box stuff up and donate it?

Even after the fence went up (signaling the onset of demolition), I kept my hands off policy going. Maybe it was sheer inertia. But part of me began to think that burial in a pile of rubble might be a fitting end for these belongings. Dignified, even. Besides, weren’t my attics and cellars full? Didn’t I have piles of my own shit to box up and donate?

This week the excavator was delivered and with it, a sense of urgency. Time was nearly up! I snuck through the fence and went in for a third and final visit, this time all the way up to the bedroom level. It was eerie and sad. A radio next to a couch, both forlorn. One can imagine someone with the window cracked open to the sounds of summer listening to a Red Sox game.

This time I did take a few objects: two mixing bowls, a plate, four woven potholders, that glass percolator, and a few items from a hardware drawer.




Turns out, you can tear down a house in under an hour. Finn and I stood and bore witness in the bitter cold. More on that with the next post.

Joy where it comes


The Royal Wedding. Sneakers that fit and offer support. Really good homemade gluten free cookies. Lilacs. Lichen. The strength to push a lawnmower. Friends to see movies with. Movies. Social media (yes, even that).

Honeysuckle. Flying overhead: a robin with twigs in her beak (or is it plastic?) landing at the crook of two branches, building her nest. Good books.

A coyote crossing the street at 6:30 in the morning, pausing to look at Finn and me. Disappearing behind Daniella’s place. Finn. Cloth and gifts of cloth (thank you Deb and Ginny!!)

And SoulCollage. Here’s a card made, believe it or not, while constructing the burning infernos and dark fields (actually, I started it months ago and only glued it up this week).

I am the one who adores the wind and the sky and anything that plays with the wind in the sky. I adore red — how it pops and dances. I launch kites — and images and ideas, too. My element is air; my status freewheeling. I am the one who is not afraid to be silly or stand on the edge of a chair.

Driven by for decades

Like that U-Haul van, I’ve driven past this cemetery while heading somewhere else — in my case, for decades. Today, after a jaunt into National Lumber for paint chips and moth traps, the guys and I went in.

It’s much larger than I supposed, with widely spaced rows of markers. There are legible carvings in slate, lichen capped marble stones in various states of blur (having not weathered the years as well), and the usual variety of shapes.

Abigail, Rebecca, Hannah, Mary, and Lucinda. Albert, Enoch, James, John and Ezra.

Nineteenth century headstones always get me thinking about history in general and slavery in particular. This person died during the Civil War, say, or this one died two years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

For the entirety of Edward Hartt’s life, slavery was alive and well in America.

There were many headstones for babies and even more for people who died in their twenties. I didn’t do an inventory or anything, but I only saw one older person’s grave — a septuagenarian. It makes you appreciate how brief lives were before antibiotics, vaccinations, surgical interventions and dental care (can you imagine dying of an abscess in a rotted tooth?)

I laughed at Frank’s gravestone. Because no text carved in stone is casual, I wondered who decided to put that period after his name and was there any debate about it?

There was a lot of storm damage. Newton’s community clean up day has designated this as a site, but as someone who’s coordinated a few of these events, I wonder what exactly people will do. Maybe a crew will come in with chainsaws, first.

The textures were gorgeous, including those associated with the neighboring lumberyard.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! It is actually warm enough this afternoon to go outside without a down jacket!