Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Ease of It All

Late Saturday afternoon a week ago, I was walking the Cape Cod National Seashore. In the company of four members of my family, I withstood the winds along the nearly empty beach. It was a dramatic landscape onto which we had launched ourselves for the short time. Everything about the wide sky above and before us spoke of winter coming, of cold deepening as each week passed, of darkness settling in earlier and earlier.

According to plan, early that evening two cars with those four members of the family pulled onto Route 6A. Within an hour they would be off the Cape; in another hour they would all be home. I would be sitting on the back deck of my niece's house in Eastham by then. Away from the shore there were no more winds, and a forecast rise in temperatures had already set in. The moon was big in the black sky. From the radio in my niece's kitchen I could hear a station familiar from last July, Outermost Radio in Provincetown. With summer instincts, I raised my BlackBerry camera to the sky.

Waking up alone in the Eastham house the next morning, I took my time showering, got in the car and went for breakfast at the Fairway. Afterwards I took a coffee with me and parked in the lot at Nauset Light. I rolled down the windows, sent out a couple of text messages, and wondered at the ease of it all.

What winter ever had the final word?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Along a November Trail

Imagine living a life in which no one else has to be interested.

I am enjoying Piano Lessons by NPR commentator Noah Adams. A friend in his forties who has recently begun to take piano lessons mentioned the book to me. The copy that I borrowed from a nearby public library has been well handled, well used since the appearance on the shelves of this 1997 first edition. I live in a Public Radio kind of town.

You write a certain way if you are an NPR commentator. Your livelihood depends on living a life in which people are interested – or at least writing about it as though they should be. My friend learning the piano admits to being sad approaching the end of this narrative of a year in the life of an adult learner like himself.

This past weekend I accompanied my oldest brother, his wife, his grown daughter and his two-year-old grandson on a morning walk through a nature preserve on Cape Cod. The path we followed was quiet that early on a Saturday, but it was not empty. The wind was up, and we kept up our pace. When we had completed the trail and returned to the visitors' center, we seemed to separate fairly quickly and settle before different exhibits and into various interactive spaces.

In our walk I had been explaining to my brother some of the dynamics of writing a blog like Writing Cabin. I mentioned to him the variety of readers – a woman from France whose English class had once translated a posting about our mother's grandfather clock, twin brothers who had been classmates of mine in a New Orleans high school. When I took a picture of red berries on one bush along the trail and another picture of blue berries on a juniper tree, I did not inform my brother that the images would likely appear in a posting I would soon write for Writing Cabin.

Sturdy and hale, my brother is barely a month into his seventies. I watched him seated in the visitors' center after our walk. He had taken one of the chairs that was set up for observing the birds and squirrels in a protected area beyond a large picture window. He was very still. I don't recall ever having seen him that still before or for that long.

Ordinarily at the side of his grandson on these outings, pointing things out, naming and explaining and describing, my brother looked briefly like someone who had a morning hour that only he could live, a life that only he could explore. It was as though he were testing out what it might be like to have a morning in which no one else needed to be interested.

Bloggers – as well as NPR commentators – love to write about moments like that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


On November 1 of this year, I observed the tenth anniversary of my father’s passing.

The evening before, I had begun work on a project that had as its earliest goal the easy creation of a Christmas gift that I could give to each of my brothers and each of my nieces and my nephew. With the thought of publishing a small book on a site like, I had set out to collect any postings in this blog in which I reflect on my parents and what I remember of them. A touching tribute, no?

What happened, however, is that I searched the blog and read – again and again – a record that was not always and everywhere a tribute.

I found questions.

I found what had been hard at times to say, what had been difficult to admit.

What right, I found myself eventually asking, did I have to present to the members of my family a book punctuated by those questions, those admissions, those difficulties?

Would I transgress some ethical boundary if I suggested that life growing up in that house had sometimes been hard?

Would I disturb in others memories best left forgotten or, more painful still, private and unnamed?

I have time to mull. I can give myself the leisure of some days and weeks to ask: better not to touch this topic? better to let it stay just mine? better to look across a Christmas table and smile and laugh and give a future the chance to unwind without its real past?