Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Collecting an observable moment

I am a collector of observable moments, and on a recent trip to Niagara Falls, Ontario, I recorded this one in my memory.

      Niagara Falls is for lovers, and the elegantly dressed white-haired French couple in their seventies sit side by side in the round upholstered booth facing the colorful illuminated falls view while sipping white wine. By the second glass their bodies are closer together almost rubbing shoulders and his hand rests over hers. They leave in a glow after a third glass, and my guess as to the rest of the evening is as good as yours.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Mixing together 'white' thoughts

    The first word spilling out of my head is white. Indulge me here in the fine art of writing descriptively about “nothing”. Maybe.

     Here’s why. An artist would agree that white isn’t a color, but technically the absence of color. Ask a scientist and you'll get a different reply based on physics: Black is not a color, but white is a color. There are shades of gray to each answer.

      You can't mix colors to create white. White is the color of fresh snow — sorry for the mental image — and milk, the color the human eye sees when it senses light, which contains all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum.

     Close your eyes and picture being in the Bay of Alaska viewing the glaciers, and you will see blue tints out of bubbles of whiteness. The dense ice absorbs every other color of the spectrum except for white.
    A white fixation, you say?

     Snowflakes are no joking matter around the office anymore this late into March. You’ve had your fill of fender benders, shoveling time and icy porch steps like the photo of the tiny kid in the red hoodie on the patio going around social media: “For the love of …STOP SNOWING.”

     If you are all set with winter “been there, done that” attitude, I don’t blame you for wagging your finger at me.
     There are other ways to look at the color and be a cheerful optimist. After all, white signifies purity, innocence, wholeness and completeness. They are such admirable qualities and virtues for all seasons.

     Speaking of winter white, it is a lovely color for an outfit – a sweater, parka or slacks — if you can keep your pant legs from attracting slush or your arms from not leaning in while scraping your windshield. It’s a seasonal hazard for Western New Yorkers.

     As a symbol white often represents light in contrast with darkness. All the bad characters vs. all the decent guys are as easy to spot as “The Big Bad Wolf”.
     Times have changed and no longer are whites to be worn after Memorial Day and put away after Labor Day. Back in Emily Post’s day — the nineteen 00s, 10s and 20s — the summer season was bracketed by Memorial Day and Labor Day. Society flocked en masse from town house to seaside cottage or mountain cabin to escape the heat. City clothes were left behind in exchange for lighter, whiter, summer costumes.
     Come fall and the return to the city, summer clothes were put away and more formal city clothes donned once more. It was an age when there was a dress code for practically every occasion, and the signal to mark the change between summer resort clothes and clothing worn for the rest of the year was encapsulated in the dictum "No white after Labor Day." And it stuck.

     Of course you can wear white after Labor Day, and it makes perfect sense to do so in September's temperatures often hardly fall-like. The true interpretation according to Emily Post is "wear what's appropriate — for the weather, the season, or the occasion." So on a blistering Indian summer September day here in Livingston County, you’ll catch me wearing my “whites”.

     If you are of a certain age, you will remember the White Rain Shampoo jingle: “Use White Rain Shampoo tonight and tomorrow your hair will be sunshine bright.” Check out the lovely model in the commercial (YouTube) for a bit of nostalgia. Gillette first introduced White Rain in 1952, and it is still on the shelves.
     Notice the woman standing over the kitchen sink where she “suds up” right in front of the camera. That 50s ad was risky exposing a “private” hygienic routine for public display on television. How far we’ve come.

     Today’s American obsession with the process of teeth whitening to be perfect like everyone and his brother in Hollywood takes us for dental treatments, whitening products and toothpaste with brightening ingredients. A pearly white smile puts your best foot forward everywhere you go.

    In my opinion, there is nothing as glamorous as well-styled pure white hair in an older woman. She bears a regal appearance and commands any room that she enters. A few women in their 40s and 50s are prematurely white, and even then, it is a statement about their confidence as females to accept the aging process we all face.

     Has anyone ever counted how many reams of white-lined notebook paper it takes from kindergarten through high school to get a diploma?  I would imagine that it is astounding, although in the computer age it would include a lot of white computer paper, too. The main use of wood pulp is to make paper, and the whiteness must be bleached out.

     Ask your grandchild if he has heard of a telephone book, and it might surprise you that his household uses the White Pages on the Internet instead of fumbling through the fine print.
     There are tons of songs using the color, and in the case of “White Wedding” by Billy Idol, it doesn’t reference any particular season.
     A white cake layered with butter cream goodness is as pure as winter snow. I had to get in one more reminder before I closed.

     White isn’t my favorite color  — I’m a fan of reds  — and yet it is simple goofiness when I let my thoughts roam filling up the white on my computer screen.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

The eye of memory

There are as many versions of the tale as there were tellers.

Mrs.White remembers it happening in the spring. My mother says it was in the late afternoon in the summer when the Conklins' shaggy dog ran out into the road and there was a screech of tires on the Ford pick-up truck before the hit. Mr. Davis remembers a few remains of dirty snow on the edge of the road when he was hurrying out to the street to check on the whimpering dog. He says that it was in early April. The Conklins came out of their house with a blanket and the driver of the truck helped them gently move the dog to their car for an emergency visit to the vet. Mrs. Roache across the street on her porch continued praying. She fingered her rosary beads and exclaimed it was a miracle that the dog was alive thanks be to God. Everyone agreed on that one point. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Valuing a library card

The public library is responsible for furthering my love of reading as a young child.

The first identity card of significance in my life was one that permitted me entrance into a new world where I could take out two books at a time respecting due dates. I must have been in first grade, and the library was within a short walking distance from my house. I kept the card in my wallet proudly, and honored my obligations not to damage or loose a book. The staff got to know me by name, and I felt welcome exploring the different rooms housing the largest collection of books I had ever seen anywhere.

In fact, I remember worrying so much about loosing my library privileges that I would return books two or three days ahead of time just in case the librarian would overlook them on the cart. I didn't want any blemishes on my clean record. Besides, the two cent fine per day would come from my allowance, and I had better uses for my money.

Once in eighth grade I set a summer reading goal and I began in the stacks at the beginning of the alphabet. It is right there in the "A's" that I made friends for life with Meg, Beth and Jo, and I devoured Louisa May Alcott over and over. I was living in their Concord home for the entire summer and following their adventures. The following summer I decided I had better go forward, and I was delighted to find great classic authors in Jane Austin, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy.

Every time I moved as an adult, one of the first things that I would do was get a library card. Then I  officially belonged to the community.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Making history at Letchworth State Park

The "cone" has become the icon for the brutal winter of 2015.

     Letchworth State Park, you invited us to be your guests and you dressed appropriately for the occasion in your best winter finery. Thank you. We were not disappointed one bit at the party you threw right in our backyard in Livingston County (co-hosted with Wyoming County).
      More than likely not a single one of us alive today will ever see Letchworth’s frozen phenomenon again. We are history makers in the true sense of the word witnessing an event recorded in the annals of time.
     Curious by nature, I made the trek over to the park last week to see for myself. Oh, my. No picture equals the real McCoy, the frozen crystal goblet five-stories high.    
     If I remember correctly, all the attention started with someone locally posting a picture on Facebook of the spouting water fountain encased in an iced wrapping near the Gen Iris Inn. It went viral thanks to the power of social media, and the next thing I knew the national news was there in droves.
     The “cone” became the icon for the brutal winter of 2015. Letchworth Park shed its normal winter dull grays, smatterings of snow and claimed something special that no one other geographical location could match in the entire country.
     “You outdid yourselves,” my Chicago friend told me. Frankly, I assume that she was delighted to give us the compliment. Chicago is known for its harsh winters, and often I hear her gripe about the icy winds blasting off the lake smacking her in the face.
     More and more pictures of the Park began appearing on my Facebook news feed, and the shots were impressive. My photographer friends were having a “field day,” especially the professional ones who knew to get out and about early in the morning challenging each other for the perfect one before the sun cast its shadows and the crowds spoiled the view.
    Our LCN’s Mike Carney’s approach is artistic through his viewfinder, and each one of his panoramic photos communicates a unique slice of winter’s unfolding story. Training his eye to visualize what no one else sees is a skill that Carney has learned over time. He places himself in the corner of a scene — usually never straight on, and his camera frames the composition.    
     After all, the majority of pictures from the amateurs are beginning to look a bit repetitious, and cell phones can do only so much justice for outdoor photography.  
     Don’t get me wrong. Every kid and adult needs to have his picture by the cone for posterity. Besides, it’s hard to explain how small you are in comparison to an over 50- foot ice volcano when you post to friends and family in warmer climates.
     Best of all, the majority of folks are taking time to appreciate the park in its winter splendor like never before tallied in attendance figures.
     There are excellent snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails through out the park snow enthusiasts have used on a regular basis for years. For others, this natural event is an introduction to the coldest season in the park, and proves that those embracing winter keep a better attitude to get them through to the next season.
     The massive cone cylinder is a sight to feast your eyes upon, and I won’t deny it. I did pose for a few pictures. Why not?
      It is a bit disturbing that kids attempt to chip away at the cone, and park personnel have to call out to them not to do it right in front of their parents. You would like to think differently, and wish that respecting nature did involve hands-off on ocassion.
     While I am standing there, I remember fondly my last visit to the Glen Iris for lunch with retired teacher friends back in the fall. We strolled aimlessly around the lawn without jackets, and not a one of us anticipated what lie ahead.
     Today it looks like I am walking in the tundra watching my step carefully and bundling up from head to toe like a snow bunny. What a difference a few months make going from a fall foliage show to a scene out of the Northern Kingdom wall in “The Game of Thrones.”
     When I first came to college in Geneseo, we were bussed over to the park for a recreation day, and I fell in love with the place right then and there. Over time, I can’t count the number of visitors I have brought to share such a lovely spot in nature.
     There is more to come after walking around the three-dimensional shape.
     My greatest joy is checking on the falls, and it is truly a magnificent sight. I have viewed the glaciers in the Inner Passage, and loved that experience. Seeing an icy familiar place is even better in my opinion.    
     The falls at Letchworth State Park snuggle deeply into its oversized winter cloak guarded by a speckled Gray morph Eastern Screech Owl slightly visible from its silver maple tree hole overlooking the gorge. Many visitors walk to and from their cars chatting away on trivial matters never noticing they are being watched, nor appreciating the stillness except for the sound of two minor cascades of water dropping below.
     A bone-chilling cold flowing through my body evaporates into a warm sensation as my eyes focus on the purity and brightness of nature's display.
     Well-done, Letchworth State Park.  We are proud of you. It’s a winter for the books.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Letchworth State Park: you outdid yourself this winter

Letchworth State Park, you invited us to be your guests and you dressed for the occasion in your best winter finery. Thank you. We were not disappointed one bit.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Making history

The falls at Letchworth State Park snuggle deeply into its oversized winter cloak guarded by a speckled Gray morph Eastern Screech Owl slightly visible from its silver maple tree hole overlooking the gorge. Many visitors walk to and from their cars chatting away on trivial matters never noticing they are being watched, nor appreciating the stillness except for the sound of two minor cascades of water dropping below. 
I am witnessing history recorded live in the annals of the park, and for me, honoring this once-in-a lifetime event. 
A bone-chilling cold flowing through my body evaporates into a warm sensation as my eyes focus on the purity and brightness of nature's display.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A powerful word shares multiple meanings

     “You’ve been hacked.” Three little words can turn your world upside down. Suddenly an extra time-consuming burden falls on your shoulders.
      Just when you think you have passwords secured and firewalls in place, misery lifts up its ugly head.
     I had my credit card hacked on Cyber Monday. Pitiful isn’t it that I would even think of online shopping on such a day when the Internet predators are stalking in full force?
     All I was doing was purchasing a pair of boots in preparation for snow, and with a blink of an eye, a blizzard came out of nowhere from China.  
     Fortunately, my bank was right on top of it and had their routine down pat. I was talked through the process calmly from a person on the phone trained to offer a teaspoon of sympathy to hysterical customers, and I gave her an A rating on the follow-up survey.
     What stings the most is the loss of my personal privacy, although I shouldn’t be surprised at what information is out there.

     To this day I am still getting credit card information stored on various websites integrated with my new card.
      If only vitamin C and Echinacea would work preventing my online accounts from being invaded like it does building up my immunity.
     I have heard tales of people taking a year or two getting a bank account functioning properly. I hope you’re not one of those folks.
     You can never sympathize with someone else until it has happened to you. I promise to listen more attentively when a rational human being turns into a raving maniac who needs to share every single detail of his ordeal — the woes of the worst history case of hacking since credit cards were invented.
     The story gets grander at each telling, too, with additional whining for effect from the drama queen or king during his fifteen minutes of fame.
     The bank that I am dealing with terms it ever so politely —  “your account has been compromised.”  It’s useless ranting and raving.  I have to follow the procedures that are outlined for me, even though I want to cut to the quick and make everything right — like it was yesterday when I fell asleep.
     What a huge difference from the pleasurable excitement of the late 80’s statement: “You’ve got mail.”  
     I loved the movie with Tom Hanks and perky Meg Ryan. My then AOL account was bringing me news quicker than waiting for the postal person. Dating online was introduced to a whole new generation, too, and I fell right in with the hype.
    Hacked is not a new word in the dictionary, and I when I looked it up, there are a variety of meanings depending upon the subject matter.

     For example, every time I had a respiratory problem growing up, I would end up with a “hacking” cough. Yucky cough medicine along with a warm cloth of Vicks Vapo Rub around my neck would be what the doctor ordered. How that dry, deep cough would hurt my entire body making school an afterthought.
      Today, in a public place I steer away from hacking cough sounds knowing that germs are waiting to conquer someone somewhere whose defenses are down – please, not mine.      
     Airplane trips are the worst, and this week on a quick flight I heard a chorus of coughs floating up and down the aisle in mad counterpoint like the brisk tempo of an orchestral allegro movement layered upon a second theme.
      A familiar person is no longer at the cash register when I go to the supermarket. I hear rumors that she can no longer “hack it.” I guess the pressure became too great and the part–time job was not worth the effort. If she were to elaborate, she would explain that rude and demanding customers are hard to put up and keep a smile on your face, too.
     All writers’ fret that they can’t “hack it,” especially in the print media world, which is fast paced and geared towards a younger generation of readers. If they are indeed producing dull, unoriginal work, the term suits them.
     My mother would come back from the fish market on the dock and think nothing of “hacking” off the head of the bluefish with her trusty kitchen meat cleaver.

     She would go out to the backyard, take a wide board from the garage and put it between two sawhorses. Rolling away the thick tan butcher paper from the fish, she would prepare her workstation. She let her frustrations out lopping off fish heads splattering juice and flying scales within three feet. (Mom was big into fish chowders.)
    We kids laughed our heads off, too, watching her, and frankly, we were relieved that she wasn’t mad at any one of us right then.  
     It wouldn’t surprise you that on those nights I was involved in vicious fish head murders while running from the hacking hands of sundry characters waving cleavers wildly in the air, one being my eight-grade math teacher.
     Thumbing through the dictionary, hack is a term in masonry and politics. When a player in a game inflicts a kick or hit on another player, it is called a hack. Or a horse rented out for riding, an inferior or worn-out horse and an ordinary riding horse is a hack.
     I’m spending the rest of the day hacking around idly with no definite plan.


Monday, February 23, 2015

The "new normal" winter

I. am. so. cold.
The "new normal" for the winter
I. am. so. told.
Reporters out of  headlines
Nothing I've read
Could beat mine.
CHILL OUT, I said.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Snow day, slow down day

-7.4 degrees. Seriously.

The weatherman is accurate with the frigid subzero temperature and wind chill factor. Everything has ground to a halt, and being a Sunday, there is a different set of cancellations on the docket.

For an outdoor person such as myself, being forced to stay indoors requires slowing down and considering what could, or could not get accomplished within the four walls. I am going to live it differently today though, and move a little more at a snail's pace, contemplate and seek enjoyment without any negativism about the brutal Northeast weather situation. I'm off to a good start still in my fleece pajamas and hands wrapped around a hot cup of lemon tea.

Actually, last week I started a sorting and decluttering phase along with the light of the full snow moon, and it was my natural rthymic cycle of preparing for spring. How optimistic am I?

My advice to you is carve out a day that brings meaning to you and those in your life. Will it be a special pot of soup simmering on the stove all afternoon permeating the house with wonderful aromas? Or phone calls to friends and family in far away places? What about that book that never gets finished and is long overdue at the library?

Be brave. Stay warm. Slow down.