July 2011

The post I had been planning to write today, while I was in the country, in the woods, in the overcast mist of midmorning, legs being scratched by thorns of the underbrush, was of following the bears into the bushes for blueberries. I thought of Blueberries for Sal as I trod from the house to the field to the hedgerow where the first blueberries hung waiting on bushes half exposed to field, half buried in brush. My wish for more berries led me beyond the field, toward the deep woods, through what has grown up around berry bushes on land formerly cleared and returning to forest, tall grasses, raspberry cane, something thorny, goldenrod and other advantage seeking stuff. The only way I could make my way through this dense growth without losing too much skin on my bare legs was to follow the trodden paths that wound from field through grass, and circled each scattered blueberry bush in picking (or eating) proximity. The only beast I could imagine making those paths was a bear. The paths really were only to and around the blueberries. They were newly trodden, and lead back into the deep woods, I think, though I followed them that far only with my eyes, not my feet.

When I first found the house in Ashfield, I was frightened of the bears. Each time I left the house for the woods or field I expected to encounter one. The closest I’ve come is picking berries, or roaming the lawn, coming upon piles of berry loaded bear poop. There was one in the yard my friend found today as he mowed. Early in my time as a single woman, I tested my bravery by picking berries alone at the edge of the field, where a pile of bear poop told me I was not alone. Each path from field to forest tested my bravery. My ears thought they heard scrambling, but I never saw a bear.

This year the berries flourish again. After a year of not finding many, I found several yesterday afternoon on a walk away from the barren stream, having attempted to clear a bucket to allow the water to refill the pond. Instead of water, I found berries. I woke this morning eager to go back. Followed by deer flies in hoards, I scoured the bushes on the edge of the field first, then followed the bears’ paths around the bushes amidst the bramble, then followed the edge of the field, picking any bush I came across clean of ripe berries. Nearly done with the route, I heard a sound in the bushes, wondered, but didn’t fear too much, if it was a bear. It wasn’t. It wasn’t small. At first I thought it was a monkey, as it fed with it’s hands. It wasn’t, of course.Then I thought it might be a racoon, but it had no mask. It was large, strong, brown, low to the ground, and prickly. I wondered about a beaver, though the beaver pond is much deeper in the woods. As I told the story to my friend, I considered porcupine, which is what we think it was. I thought to take him back to see. Instead we cleaned the house. Time in the woods was ended, return to civilization begun.

Liana has been sending me great articles about kids, learning, education, and society, culled from her much wider reading of the NYTimes and Boston Globe. Today’s is a fascinating article about teaching Haitian children whose first language is Creole, and how to shift Haitian society by shifting the place of Creole in it. Our charter school is all about language, and so this is a piece I read with great interest. We’ll struggle with similar issues if, as we hope and expect, we find ourselves with many Haitian children in our school. We hope to offer them instruction in French as well as English, and have chosen this knowing that is the language of Haitian educated society…however reading the article makes me wonder how we might also do some work with Haitian Creole, giving Haitian kids the advantages we’ll be giving Spanish and Portuguese speakers in offering instruction in their home language as well as English.

Much to puzzle over, and I’m hoping sometime soon we might meet Mr. DeGraff and partner with him in some way in making our school, his research, and Haitian education work for Haitian kids, culture, and society.

The power of language is huge. In this world of international interconnection, it does feel like the next frontier in many ways..fascinating to explore how it plays out on many, many levels.

Read the article and comment if you have thoughts. This feels like a topic that is wide open and would benefit from further exploration as our school is taking shape.


Our Charter School Application is in its final draft form. Our day care has weathered some major shifts, summer and fall schedules are falling into place. My kids are learning to live in two homes. I’m learning to live without them part time, if reluctantly. They’ll soon move to Cambridge with their dad and his new wife. We may incorporate some housemates into our home here this fall. Life is about change, slow learner on that one somehow, forties good for learning a whole lot of things in a whole lot of ways.

House is cool today, AC on three levels. Adapted on that one, too, reluctantly, feel better for it, as do the kids and as did the mom, who was here for a very nice two day visit, MFA and ice cream Wednesday night, Mom, biggest boy, friend and her son, pool for Grandma and gal, dinner for some, hardware store (for AC containing curtain rods) and ice cream for some on Thursday. Home taking on a new flavor, settling into a new normal, at last..perhaps..

Not sure at all where I’m headed, perhaps that is the point, at least the one I grappled with on retreat, learning to find enough security to go on remaining open to what comes, finding happiness in that.

Ciao for now. Hope you all are able to find your calm and cool amidst the heat.

Today I choose to read Where the Wild Things Are, after reading a couple of longer books for a mixed age group. The older ones, sevens, to my surprise, had only seen the older video in their school library class, and were eager to read the book.

As we were reading, the mischief was clearly of interest. We stopped to think of our own misdeeds that had caused our parents to send us to our rooms. Then we watched the wild rumpus begin.

As Max sat in his little tent, chin in hand, my littlest guy, who has been full of mischief himself of late, pushing, pounding, shouting, disobeying, and is still as cute as can be, thank goodness, said, “I think he’s tired of wearing that thing.”

“You mean the crown?” I asked.

“Yeah, the crown.” he said.

“Maybe he’s tired of being the king.” I wondered.

“Yeah, he’s tired of being king.”

Until today, I had never noticed that expression on Max’s face so closely, the moment when fun turns to tired, adventure to homesickness, when the excitement of being in charge turns to responsibility for wildness. Funny my two noticed today.

School should be a place where learners think their own thoughts and come to understand the thinking of others.

My son Jonah made this distinction for me shortly after he began at Sudbury Valley. The importance of both the individual’s thoughts and the individual’s engagement with adults, peers, and ideas brought to him or her from history, community, the outside world, books, the disciplines were highlighted for me again this morning as I read a book that is new to me and old to the world, John Dewey’s Education and Experience. I love it and can’t wait to read more.

This comes in Writers’ Almanac today, day after a long weekend in the country with kids and friends, a day in Northampton with my gal, on the road, long drive on Rt. 90, first of four in the next ten days, wide openness of travel, of vacation, of time away resonates for me with this poem when I read it this morning over the new internet over the air connection in my mom’s house, the place where I grew up and where until now the internet has always come through the wall into my mom’s old computer in the basement. She now has a laptop, a router, I now have internet access from my old bedroom on my not so new laptop, dangerous thing, perhaps, to have internet, and to reveal my whereabouts to anyone from here, house in Somerville could be robbed as I type, or not.

Last evening as I drove, nearly two hours from home, the hills began rolling more gently, the fields opened to a wider width, the greens and the birdsong and the smells were familiar, and I recognized this was home, this deep sensory input of my surroundings brought me back to the place where I began, and I wondered if we all have that, if my children will for Somerville the way I do for Western, NY, have that visceral sense of home, which I now do also as I roll down Route 2 toward Somerville, Boston Skyline coming into view, as I now do coming round the corner beside Sanderson Academy toward our place on Willis-Howes Road in Ashfield, those landscapes, soundscapes, light scapes imprinted upon our brains, within our beings that tell us we are home, and as I write I realize how many of them are in a modern life, for a person like me, the beach in San Francisco, a small gnomish cabin in the woods of Cape Cod, a tiny corner dormitory room on Amsterdam Ave in New York City, a mattress on the floor in a college apartment and a futon there a summer later in Providence, Rhode Island, a double bed with a white duvet which nearly touched the bedroom walls of a brownstone in London, a paper lantern above a sister’s bed in Ecuador, so many places in a life to become home.

And now my girl is here, at my own childhood bedroom door, her hula hoop and our suitcases modern introductions to a room of matching white painted furniture, thirty some year old Barbie’s and their clothes, books published when I was a girl, a teen, a young adult, bought by me and left behind, baby dolls with crazy hair, photos of me and my children as children, music boxes from my first communion, lamps from relatives now gone, the room is a museum I realized last night as I drove home, flower girl and Christmas Dance and Junior and Senior Prom and Dress Review Dresses hanging in the closet beside my mother’s seldom worn things, Cornell and Leroy and Pavilion yearbooks full of lives gone by, stored here and sometimes in memory, fabric in a trunk that was in my mom’s house growing up, perhaps full of fabric from projects she and my grandmother finished, or started, where does home begin and end, and how?

For now, enjoy the poem, which started my day off right. Must get back to the practical, dressing for today.

Have a ____ Day

by Lou Lipsitz

Have a nice day. Have a memorable day.
Have (however unlikely) a life-changing day.
Have a day of soaking rain and lightning.
Have a confused day thinking about fate.

Have a day of wholes.
Have a day of poorly marked,
unrecognizable wholes you
cannot fathom.
Have a ferocious day, a bleak
unbearable day. Have a
riotously unproductive day;
a grim jaw-clenched, Clint Eastwood vengeful
law enforcement day.
Have a day of raging, hair-yanking
jealousy and meanness. Have a day
of almost grasping
how whole you are; a finely tuned,
empty day.

Have a nice day of walking and circling;
a day of stalking and hunting,
of planting strange seeds and wandering in the woods.
Have a day of endearing nonsense,
of hopelessly combing your hair,
a day of yielding, of swallowing
hard, breathing more deeply,
a day of fondness for beetles
and macabre spectacles, or irreverence
about anything you want, of just
sitting and wondering.
Have a day of wondering if it’s
going to help, or if it just doesn’t matter;
a day of dark winds
and torrents flowing though the valley,
of diving into cool water
and gasping for breath,
a day of sudden hunger for communion.

Have a day where the crusts you each
were given are lost and you stumble
with your fellows
searching endlessly together.

“Have a ____ Day” by Lou Lipsitz, from If This World Falls Apart. © Lynx House Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

This summer my cats want to go out. I leave the porch door open day and night, all week long. This morning I get up early to start the day. When I reach for the mixing bowls to make the muffins, there’s a small spider inside, right in the middle of the smallest nested bowl. I’ve let the wild life in, spider, ants, fruit flies which must be traveling up from the compost bins in the side yard below, as there isn’t a piece of fruit outside the fridge up here today in my pre-going away clean out the kitchen phase of life. The cats go out, the insects come in, bothering us very little if we don’t let them bother us. Keep the counters clean, put the food away, wash the dishes when they’re dirty, life goes on.


Once a long time ago, when we first bought our house and were struggling to paint the enormous peeling thing, to repair the broken porch rails, first time in many over the last twenty years, my Aunt Joanne asked me why. Why couldn’t we let the place go natural she had wondered, like they do in the country. Some places in the country, I thought, not the place where I grew up. The idea stuck though, and my driveway of gravel, dirt and weeds reminds me of Aunt Joanne, the back yard dirt hill and salt marsh hay, decaying stumps, late June and early July ground cover of moldering mulberries, hedges trimmed by me and the day care kids, including a nine -year-old homeschooler learning to work for pay, weeds growing up between the bricks so carefully laid nearly ten years ago by my then father-in-law, edged by a fancy french drain, now filling with sticks and leaves, all those things make me feel a little like City Farm, Novella Carpenter’s idea of the next realm, when city folk will find their country roots. Maybe chickens and bees are next. For now the blackberry vines are taking over the vegetable patch, except for some sturdy chive, a few weak tomato plants, a  basil plant gone to seed, and potato leaves shooting up from the ground in random open places. Letting the wild take over, perhaps.


Making Pies is my background music while I bake, Patty Griffin in her melancholy homey way makes me feel part of things, bugs invited into my world, I’m invited into hers, permeability is a good thing for connection of even those others might not want. Enjoy.


And here’s the recipe for raspberry muffins, again from the old Betty Crocker Cookbook like the one our mom had in the kitchen growing up, my kids’ current favorite morning treat, when I get up in time and have the motivation, which I do today, feels good.

I double the batch, because my boys are teenagers, and today we’ll share with friends. Make as many as you like. And I won’t disturb the spider that way, using the larger bowls. Live and let live and all.

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted shortening (I use melted butter)

1 1/2 cups sifted flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (or blueberries, mulberries, blackberries, whatever you have or is in season)

Heat oven to 400. Grease bottom of muffin cups or use paper baking cups. Beat egg lightly with fork.  Stir in milk and oil (butter). Sift dry ingredients together and stir in just until flour is moistened. Batter should be lumpy. Do not overmix. At the last minute, blend in carefully 1 cup well-drained fresh raspberries (or blueberries or blackberries, or mulberries if you live in my house where they fall this time of year all over the yard). I use frozen raspberries today. I also add a teaspoon or so of grated orange rind. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Muffins will have gently rounded tops that are pebbled rather than smooth. Loosen immediately with spatula. Serve warm. Makes 12 medium muffins. YUM.