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August 2010

Woulda Missed

One of the things I love about walking are all the sightings and discoveries that I would have missed if I were in a car or on my bike.  I've decided to start sharing these moments here, in the hope that they'll make you happy too.


Sense of humor Newburyport 081410 

I spotted this happy fire alarm on a house in Newburyport MA.  Do you think someone hung out one of the windows to paint it on?  Maybe it was a rebellious teen, tired of helping paint the house.  In any case, I saw it, smiled and started humming Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry Be Happy".

A bit off topic -  Is that "Mr. Noodle's brother, Mr. Noodle" from Elmos' World in the Don't Worry Be Happy Video?



Polly's Neighborhood

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This bird sanctuary is outside the famous Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill NH.  The inscription says "NO squirrels, pussycats, raccoons or small boys".  It appears that the critters in northern New Hampshire are well educated, because I didn't see a single outlaw animal attempt to enter while I walked the grounds. 

Claire, a dear friend has told me for years, that if I ever get up to Franconia Notch, I must try Polly's.  I've attempted to go in the winter, only to realize on the way that they're closed Oct - May.  I've tried to go while camping, only to be vetoed by my fellow campers who wanted the adventure of cooking eggs over a fire pit.  And this time I made it to their door...exactly three minutes before they close.  I'm getting closer!

Since I wasn't going to eat, I decided to use their parking lot as a home base and go for a walk.  A walk in the mountains, even just along a roadside is much more strenuous than a walk at home.  I wasn't especially prepared for it (no water bottle for example), since I'd left, where I was staying, with plans to go have lunch, not take a hike.  So I compensated by taking frequent breaks to gawk, like the tourist I was, at the view.  

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Wouldn't you?

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I've lived in areas where people hay most of my life, and I've seen it stored several ways, but these were my first honest-to-goodness, "little boy blue" haystacks. You would think all haystacks would look the same; they're lumps of grass after all, but each one is a bit different.  It's no wonder Monet became so fascinated by them.  I got to see his haystack series at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston during high school.  It was hands down the best field trip I ever had.  How much of that was due to the art and how much was due to it being a mixed grade trip so I was with my closest friend (who is a year older than me), I don't know; it's all become a little blurred. 

I'd never been to such a large museum before, where there was actually well known art.  It was a bit like seeing someone famous walking down the street.  We saw Renoir's famous dancing couple, actual statues from Egypt and room after room after room of haystacks in every variation of light and shadow.  To be honest, the haystacks became a wee bit monotonous, but today in my mind they're the symbol for that entire day. 

After seeing the real fields of haystacks I walked on a bit farther and found a gift store where I snacked substantially on the cheese and cracker samples.  It wasn't oatmeal waffles smothered in maple hurricane sauce, but I'll just have to wait to try that until the next time I'm in Polly's neighborhood. 


To pedal or to walk

    I was recently listening to an episode of On Point about the rise of biking in the US.  As a child I loved to bike, to be able to get from point A to point B without asking my mother for a ride, the excitement of racing down hills with the wind in my face and my ears full of the whirring of tires against the unforgiving tar.  It was magic.  I still ride my bike from time to time and when I do I'm amazed once more at how quickly the tires chew up the miles, and the satisfaction of feeling my body moving in rhythm with the machine.   Biking Pease

    Ernest Hemingway praised the advantages of the bicycle over the car by saying, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them."   Anyone who has ever biked a road that they typically drive,  has to agree.  A road that seems pretty flat in a car, can be anything but when you're on a bike. If I may digress, isn't the image of Hemingway's bearlike frame balanced atop a bicycle priceless?   For some reason in my mind's eye, the bike has a big wicker basket (a la Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz) in front.  Anyway...

    Biking, for the adult me, is simply another driving experience. I am part of the town traffic.  My mind is alert to the motion of bikers and drivers around me.  I'm thinking about how their next move will affect me and vice versa.  I gave other vehicles little thought as a teen, riding helmet-less two and three abreast down the middle of our neighborhood's streets.  Cars better watch out for us, was the attitude.  Sometimes we used the appropriate hand signals to indicate we were going to stop, but that was more for the fun of communicating in code than any desire to inform drivers of our intentions.  Today when I strap on my helmet and start to ride, every inch of me is aware of my proximity to cars and just how inattentive drivers can be.  I use hand signals religiously, I stick as far right as possible and since my town is thick with bicyclists, I try not to do anything sudden or unexpected that could throw them off as well. 

    Somewhere in my mind a calculation has been made and as much as I enjoy the feeling of flight that biking makes possible, the advantages of walking carry more weight.  Today I walk a lot like I biked at age 8.  I do it because it feels good to be moving, to be outside, to see new things.  I stop or change direction when something attracts my senses, an unfamiliar sound in the trees, an interesting building in the distance, an unexpected scent.  I'm a truly irritating person to take a walk with.  A bridge, a wooded path, a weather vane, I can't resist taking a closer look. When I leave my house I rarely have a destination in mind, which has lead to all sorts of discoveries (and countless chances to get over my fear of being lost).  


   Favorite Things book  I keep a little notebook where I list things that make me happy.  Some of them are big parts of my life, relationships and the like, but many of them are one time occurrences.  Often they're things I see on my walks that I would have missed if I were traveling any other way: baby wild turkeys disappearing into the undergrowth, the laughter of a family eating dinner together, the first fireflies of the season.  These sightings make my world new again, and turn every block into a land of potential discovery.

"Let us not take it for granted that life exists more fully in what is commonly thought big than in what is commonly thought small."
--Virginia Woolf