August 2013

This morning I wake up in the motel bedroom on route something or other, just outside the town of Malone, New York, having driven here from my brother’s place a half an hour away, closest town with motels, and think of my brother and all he manages in his life in the country, after I look at pictures on my iphone, trying to choose some to send, iphone my young nephew commented upon when we arrived yesterday in the garden outside his home, asking me if I like iphones, wondering if mine is slow like his mama’s, and the wifi here at the motel is ‘why bother”, spotty at best on the laptop in the room, though lovely by the pool, no connection other than data on the iphone, and even that is slow, as my young boy says, but he found beans for us to eat outside his front door and we had more for dinner he and his grandmama picked, and swiss chard his grandmama grew and picked and cooked, along with the CSA and farmer’s market and Whole Foods veggies I brought along to cook with the asian condiments in their fridge, including Thai curry paste and Eden organic sesame hot oil..

I woke up looking at the pictures of the tractor with the hog, the boy in the garden, the chickens by their coop, the garden growing high on ropes attached to trees pounded into the ground by my brother, the boats grounded on the sand bar in the middle of the lake, thinking about the city girl and the country boy, lying in bed while my children slept and my boyfriend far away read the NY Times and my brother probably did the same with yesterday’s papers, NY Times and local, brought home by his wife from her job at the store, and I talked to myself in my mind about how easily I am overwhelmed in the city.

Here is what I thought. My brother and his family care for three pigs, two beef cattle, a handful of chickens, a cat, many dogs, and I am overwhelmed by a cat and her fleas. My brother in the country has many acres, a garden all around his house, animals living in front and back, and I am overwhelmed by trimming my hedges and taming the weeds. Nature is the wildness you can’t tame at the borders of your home. We decide how we feel about the plants between the bricks on the front walk and the plants we find along the edges of the road. They can be weeds that need pulling or wild edibles or bouquets for the table. I fall in group one. Grandmama in group two.

My brother lives on an unplowed road at the end of a long drive. He has no garage nor a barn to house his vehicles, of which there are many, including a small tractor stalled out with a pig in a crate in the bucket on the front when we first arrive. He plows his way out whenever it snows, while in Somerville I live less than twenty feet from the street with sidewalks and a three car drive and city plows and I am frequently overwhelmed by snow.

Yesterday we spent the day on a sand bar which we reached on two boats, one a party boat rented by my mom and driven by her beau, another owned by my brother, driven by him possibly since age six. On an enormous lake ringed by expensive cottages, this was the only public beach, shared with us by no one until the campers arrived, having so much fun my sister and daughter and I wondered if my daughter might like to join them next summer, so much so that my sister used her iphone to investigate the camp in the pouring rain under the canopy of the party boat as we returned to shore. Ten thousand dollars for a summer for my girl to play in the indoor gym, to ride kayaks to the sand bar, to lay on the self-same beach where we had just been playing or ten thousand dollars for a home on my brother’s road, a place no one much wants to live. The contrast is remarkable, the way the rich and poor live. Why no public beach on the whole entire lake?, I ask my brother. Because this is the North Country my brother says, a statement he uses often to describe the wild, forgotten place he lives. No one gives a *@!.

Now I need to wake my middle son, asleep in the motel, who is going to meet my brother along with his two cousins for what will be a useless for catching fish but fun with Uncle Dave sort of adventure, fishing at nine, when real fishing is done near seven. The seven o’clock adventure was shifted forward so we wouldn’t be too tired for the fair this afternoon and evening, the fair we’ll go to at four to keep from having rides suck all our money, to ride the ferris wheel and the roller coaster, if that exists in that lovely lit up world we passed the last two nights, to eat fair food, hopefully offered by the local VFW or agricultural organization, rather than the traveling midway folks, to visit the animals and to cap it off with the demolition derby, which is the main attraction for my brother and his boy, and possibly to take a last ride on the lit up ferris wheel with my gal just before we leave as we did last summer when she and I and middle son did our Canobie Lake adventure, where we spent a day riding every single coaster til it closed.

Here’s the Writer’s Almanac poem for today. I’m getting a head start on the next time right now. How about you? More photos after I wake my son, if all goes well.


Next Time

by Joyce Sutphen

I’ll know the names of all of the birds
and flowers, and not only that, I’ll
tell you the name of the piano player
I’m hearing right now on the kitchen
radio, but I won’t be in the kitchen,

I’ll be walking a street in
New York or London, about
to enter a coffee shop where people
are reading or working on their
laptops. They’ll look up and smile.

Next time I won’t waste my heart
on anger; I won’t care about
being right. I’ll be willing to be
wrong about everything and to
concentrate on giving myself away.

Next time, I’ll rush up to people I love,
look into their eyes, and kiss them, quick.
I’ll give everyone a poem I didn’t write,
one specially chosen for that person.
They’ll hold it up and see a new
world. We’ll sing the morning in,

and I will keep in touch with friends,
writing long letters when I wake from
a dream where they appear on the
Orient Express. “Meet me in Istanbul,”
I’ll say, and they will.

“Next Time” by Joyce Sutphen, from After Words. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)


We arrived late last night after a long drive from Somerville to stay in a little motel near my brother’s place in Northern New York near the border with Canada. This morning was cold when we hit the convenience store for milk and juice and coffee and donuts to take back to the room. I wore long pants and long sleeves for the first time all summer and regretted leaving my raincoat and sweater at home. Now the clouds are moving over and the sun is coming through as I wait in the parking lot overlooking the highway and the pool and all the way to Canada if my sense of direction is right, for my son to finish showering so we can head off to my brother’s place where we’ll visit him and his family of people and animals, including my youngest nephew, pigs, cow, and chickens, and take some walks or hikes, ride the rented party boat, contemplate plans for the demolition derby and the fair tomorrow night. I’m feeling far from yesterday in Somerville, day before on the Cape and before that Northampton. It’s been a summer on the road and its not done yet.

Now the clouds are back and rain and I regret again not bringing my raincoat. No matter what I am never fully prepared.