1st weekend in May just opened up!!!

April 16, 2014

First Friday in Chestertown in the spring is not to be missed, with downtown shops opening their doors offering free refreshments, music on the streets, and the sights and sounds of fun everywhere!  And now we have this weekend open**!

So we just wanted to let you know….  :)


** (The brand new puppy that our scheduled guests had been expecting to take back home on May 4th is coming a little earlier than expected, so our “puppy people” have had to cancel in order to be able to come the weekend before.  So their weekend is now open:  good for them, good for us – except that we will miss seeing them again – and now good for you, too!)

Miss Phoebe

April 14, 2014

Yes, I grew up here.  One can tell because of the title of this post, since the local yokels grew up calling their elders by their first names with their appropriate titles preceding:  Mr. or Miss.  A woman’s marital status applies not; she is “Miss,” regardless.  Hence, Miss Phoebe, at age …. hmm … not quite sure now … 95??  She was married, but has been widowed for many years:  25 or 30, maybe?  (I’m sure she knows the exact number of days since Mr. Townsend died, but that fact, like so many other rich, deep ones, lie far beneath the quiet composure of the sweet, calm way that she has).

Our 5 3/4 year old grandson has “figured out life,” [see preceding post] and you know, I believe I may have, too:  I want to be like Miss Phoebe when I grow up.  When I’m in my 90′s, I want to be the person who welcomes, and who waits patiently, with grace; the one who listens – with smiles, nods, encouragement, and with great interest, like the one visiting is her most favorite person in the whole world, (even though, in Miss Phoebe’s case, I know better, because she is much loved).  I want to laugh, (like my Aunt Sara), and for my eyes to tear up when tears are shared – like Miss Phoebe’s did yesterday (even though she, by her own admission, is not a cry-er) and just like they did with Aunt Sara, Aunt Bernice, Aunt Hilda and with both of my parents before they died so long ago now.

I really couldn’t tell you if Miss Phoebe has face wrinkles or not, although she must, since she is a 90-something, but I can’t say for sure because I’ve never noticed.  What I have noticed is that her beauty goes way deep and radiates out through her skin in a kind of glow.   She’s “pretty,” real easy on the eyes.  But not in the usual way of meaning it.  She is, though, just the same.  (And she did used to be a beautiful young woman, just for the record, but even if she hadn’t, she would still be one now.)

I stayed 2 hours at her house yesterday afternoon and I thought it was oh, maybe 30 minutes.  Terry, her son, came through her front door at 5, (and I knew he was coming at 5 to fix her supper for her, because she had told me), and since I had to be somewhere else at 5, I burst out, “Terry!  I thought you weren’t coming till 5!”  He laughed and said that it was.

Her sons take turns now, coming to fix her supper and to spend nights with her, since they’re worried about her falling.  “Girls,” Miss Phoebe calls them, come during the day to help her with her bath and to get her lunch because Miss Phoebe needs to stay put (in her chair) unless somebody is with her.  (The “girls” are the ones who say that her “diapers,” as she calls them, which she only wears at night, are not “diapers” to a lady, but rather “fancy pants.”  She giggled at that, but we agreed together that you might as well come ‘em what they are and thank God for them, since they bring a lot of peace of mind – good grief, that could be a commercial, but I’m not sure a TV crew could even capture the wearing of Depends as such a lovely thing as Miss Phoebe makes them).  Up until a few weeks ago, she was doing her meals by herself and doing fine, but since a few falls happened in a row, this is her new life.  And she makes it look easy.  So this is what I mean:  I want life to look easy when I’m that age.  That’ll make it easier for those I love, for each one who comes through my front door of my 90 year old self, if there is such a thing, and I want those who come to be glad to be there.  I know, of course, that a life of caring for a 90+ mom isn’t “easy,” but I know that it can still be “good,” even when it’s not easy, since it is when things are not easy that some of the best memories can be made - of all kinds, and I think you know what I mean.

So yep, I want to be like Miss Phoebe when I grow up.  And God willing and if the creek don’t rise, maybe, just maybe, with a ton of grace thrown in besides, maybe I will.  At least, that’s my dream.

The Closet

April 4, 2014

Our 5 3/4 year old grandson said to his mom and dad last weekend, “Well, I finally figured it out.”

“What?” they asked.

“Life,” he answered.

“Life?” they wondered.

“Yeah, life is like a closet full of really great things.  It has a door on it and when you make good choices, that door opens and those wonderful things pour out.  But when you make bad choices, the door stays shut,” he told them.

Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman, is our most recent book club selection.  Our group chooses books randomly – which our laid-back, adventurous group embraces – but you never know what you might get next.  Even those who choose might be surprised, but that’s just fine b/c we all just love a good story, so we run with ‘em.  Someone mentioned that this particular book was the subject of a TV show, (which I’d never heard of), but b/c Barbara, our English teacher, had recommended it, I was looking forward to reading it.  And I was not disappointed.  Kerman’s memoir of her year in a federal prison is a great read, with grace, beauty and love revealed through the lives of many whose own closet doors had often been shut b/c of their choices, b/c of the choices of others or just because.  I didn’t want to put the book down.

Piper Kerman tells it like it is; she doesn’t try to pretty it up.  She’s honest about others, the circumstances and her own choices.  And sometimes her candor, coming out of nowhere, kicks you in the gut and causes you to stop right where you are:

‘When they shackle you, try to flex your wrists so there’s a little more room, and if you try to catch the marshal’s eye when he’s chaining you, maybe he won’t cuff you so tight your circulation goes.  Oh, and double up your socks so the restraints don’t make your ankles bleed.’

‘Pray they don’t send you through Georgia.  They stick you in a county jail, and it’s the worst place I’ve ever been in my life.’…

I went to talk to the Marlboro Man.  ‘Mr. King, they’re shipping me out on a writ, to Chicago.’  I actually succeeded in making him look surprised.

Then he laughed.  ‘Diesel therapy.’


‘Around here we call the airlift ‘diesel therapy.’

I had no idea what he was talking about…..

….After a rough pat-down, a female marshal checked my hair and my mouth for weapons, and the hop was on to the stairs up to the plane. 

On board were more marshals, enormous beefy men and a handful of weathered-looking women in navy blue uniforms.  As we clinked and clanked into the passenger seating area, we were greeted by a wave of testosterone….

Con Air is like a layer cake of the federal prison system.  Every sort of prisoner is represented…

I was feeling more positively about everyone’s shackles….

Con Air does not fly direct….At one stop more women got on.  One of them paused in the aisle, waiting for a marshal to tell her where to sit.  She was a scrawny little white woman, missing teeth, with a cloud of hair that was an indeterminate shade somewhere between gray and peroxide.  She looked like a woebegone yard chicken, like she had led a hard life.  As she stood there, some wise___ called out, ‘Crack kills!’ and half the plane, which must have contained some crack dealers, busted out laughing.  Her homely face fell.  It was like the meanest thing you ever saw on the schoolyard.  (pp. 257, 262, 263)

And some hardly have any closets at all.  :(   :(





Swinging on the River

February 27, 2014

Spring is the first time in the year to check for swing – if you’re by the river, that is.  A rise in the temperatures, a change on the calendar, a short walk to the water and the boats will be there:  the Washington College Crew Team during the week, and the Chester River Rowing Club on the weekends.  The early bird-ers can catch the view in the mornings but the afternoon strollers can watch the grace and beauty of the sport then:

There is a thing that sometimes happens in rowing that is hard to achieve and hard to define.  Many crews, even winning crews, never really find it.  Others find it but can’t sustain it.  It’s called ‘swing.’  It only happens when all eight oarsmen are rowing in such perfect unison that no single action by any one is out of synch with those of all the others.  It’s not just that the oars enter and leave the water at precisely the same instant.  Sixteen arms must begin to pull, sixteen knees must begin to fold and unfold, eight bodies must begin to slide forward and backward, eight backs must bend and straighten all at once.  Each minute action–each subtle turning of wrists–must be mirrored exactly by each oarsman, from one end of the boat to the other.  Only then will the boat continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between pulls of the oars.  Only then will it feel as if the boat is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own.  Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation.  Rowing then becomes a kind of perfect language.  Poetry, that’s what a good swing feels like.                                    p 161, Boys in the Boat

Ivan: not just for a snowy day, but for any day….

February 26, 2014

It’s been quite a winter, unusual for us here.  We don’t usually experience such snow or so much bitter cold.

One morning, about a month ago, I was walking at Wilmer Park, next to the River, and I heard something.  It wasn’t a big something at all, but a very small sound.  I wasn’t sure what it was because all around me, it was so still.  (My footprints were only the 3rd set seen in the snow).  Then it dawned on me that I had heard the ice on top of the river cracking.  In the frigid frost, that was the only sound there was.  And I thought again, for the umpteenth time, “Wow.  I love living in Chestertown where I can walk every day by the water.”  It’s been a thought of mine, way more than just once, that living here is like being on vacation.  At least, that’s how it seems to me.  But guests tell me, too, that they feel the difference here.  Chestertown doesn’t have a corner on the “quiet market,” but you just can’t beat the opportunities that quiet brings.

But thankfully,  quiet does come in different places….


People call me the Freeway Gorilla.  The Ape at Exit 8.  The One and Only Ivan.  Mighty Silverback.

The names are mine, but they’re not me.  I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan.

Humans waste words.  They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot.

Everyone knows the peels are the best part….

I’ve learned to understand human words over the years, but understanding human speech is not the same as understanding humans.

Humans speak too much.  They chatter like chimps, crowding the world with their noise even when they have nothing to say.

It took me some time to recognize all those human sounds, to weave words into things.  But I was patient.

Patient is a useful way to be when you’re an ape.

Gorillas are as patient as stones.  Humans, not so much.

pp 2 – 3, The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate, 2012.


Ivan has more to say, even though he uses his words sparingly.  And I think you’ll want to know what those words are.  I recommend this lovely little book – not just for a snowy day, but for any day.


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