Tag Archives: vacations

My Frienemy


This afternoon, I made the aquaintance of Walter the caterpillar.  He is a year long resident of Maine, who arrives sometime during July through October and then winters over and like all caterpillars, transform themselves into a moth the following spring.  It’s one of those pretty amazing magical events.  I saw him just kind of moseying along the railing near our room and we caught one another’s glance and there we were, just hanging out, getting to know one another.  It’s good when a local and a tourist communicate.  I actually think he was the one to tell me his name first, and I’m not actually sure if I told him my name.  We didn’t actually speak out loud, because that just causes others to question one’s sanity, but somehow I knew that Walter was his name.  I was off and running to catch up to my FHB because we were on our way to see the town of Belfast so I couldn’t really exchange too much information.  So, I said to Walter “see you later!” and headed off, but not before I took his picture.

I didn’t think much about Walter as our day progressed, but I did take a moment to find out a little more about him.  So, nowadays, as we all know, finding out information about someone is not that difficult anymore.  Just google “Maine caterpillar” and you can find out much more than you expect and sometimes, things turn dark and destructive.  Yes, Walter is not all he seems.  Looked kind of cute and furry with these black and white hairs sticking out.  Turns out he can create havoc and an allergic reaction and itching and I am just not even going to give you more information, because I am itching already and didn’t even touch him.  His real name is Walter the Hickory Tussock Moth.  He hangs around trees and eats leaves and give people a rash.

I’ve always been a bit naive about things that appear to be nice and cute, and I like finding out (or imagining) their names.  Makes you less scared of bugs, spiders, snakes and the like.

But cute critter status aside, there’s a reason why the Swiss German word for caterpillar (teufelskatz) translates to “devil’s cat.” Caterpillars have a dark side, one that justifies entomophobia, the fear of caterpillars.

We have another two days to spend in Maine.  It has been a good trip, albeit hot and humid (two of my least favorite weather experiences).  We read, drove around and ate some good food and talked to few people, which is pretty much what we like.  We are somewhat ninja tourists.  We like the quiet and solitude of our own company and try to stay out of sight.  Vacations are interesting pathways to recognizing that the longer you stay somewhere, the likelihood is that you will find a routine that makes you feel like you are in a temporary home till it’s time to go back to where you came from.  The locals like it that way, as do the tourists, and probably even the caterpillars.  Well, Walter, no need to keep in touch.  If I see a moth close by next spring, I won’t even remember your name.


Picture This



Remember the ad that Kodak ran, “the moments of our lives”?  Kodak left for a while, but then turned around, came back, and took another picture of itself, this time digitalized.  And so we all became part of the world of personal photographers who chronical our “moments” for posterity, in perpetuity, forever, in “The Cloud”, wherever that really is.  We point and click, and download and upload.  There is no end to what we can take a picture of from a piece of clothing we want our friend to comment on “should I buy it?” to a street sign that captures something funny, to our children, grandchildren, or the license plate of the person who took our parking space, intentionally.   

There are the posed pictures, the imposed pictures “Smile!  Dammit!” as well as the unintentional pictures of our thumbs and the floor.  I have quite a few of those which I look at for any artistic merit before I put them in the little trash pail icon on my phone.  In my imagination, I envision a cartoon which has the Statue of Liberty surrounded by a mass of people whose faces we cannot see because instead they have a cell phone “photoshopped”  where their faces would be.  We are our iPhones/cameras.  We see through a lens,not just metaphorically, but through the viewfinders of our phones.  

The last significant scenic vacation that my FHB and I travelled was to Norway and Denmark.  The first several days of travel, I chronicled the trip through video and iPhone.  In order to actually get a sense of what I was seeing, I had to remember it via the video and still pictures.  Somehow that seemed wrong.  I felt that I didn’t actually “see” anything.  I didn’t feel the expanse of the mountains or glaciers.  I didn’t get the magnitude of the beauty of Bergen and the fjords because I was not memorializing the pictures in my mind, but rather on my phone.  

Technology is amazing and it has so many tools that we benefit by having access to.  Yet it does not replace our interactions with nature or people, up close and personal, and especially face to face.  I’ve put down the camera at times when I want to take a picture in my mind, and be part of the moment, in the moment.  A picture may be worth a thousand words, and yet some of those words are worth hearing as the person looks at you,  faces you,  and sees your response to something they say.  Something clicks inside us and we don’t need a button to see it.

Fish Tales


A few weeks ago, I got my FHB his annual fishing license.  It is usually a Father’s Day gift but now that he is around town on Fridays,  it seemed like a waste of weeks to not present him with the opportunity to go out and play with the fishes.  The weather has not been cooperating, going from winter like temperatures to blazing heat.  May is a funny month.  He tends to approach things with metered steps and so the fish are still safe from his pursuit of things scale-y and slippery, for the moment.

It was a shame that my father, who liked throwing a line into a lake, ocean or river, never met my FHB.  They probably would have enjoyed one another’s company and both have this zen like approach to the art of the catch.  It’s not about the fish as it is about the fishing.  As I kid,  I got to observe my father fish and I was the child who didn’t mind digging for worms.  Sometimes I even got paid a penny a worm.  I watched as he secured the line, cast the line into the water, and waited for that little tug on the end of the fishing pole.  He would gently reel in the line at the start and then as he felt the weight of the fish, he would reel it in more quickly.  My FHB likes to fly fish as well as casting into ponds, and uses my father’s rod and reel which would have pleased my dad to no end.  I had the opportunity to join my father, as the person who rowed the boat to the middle of a lake, in the early morning hours as well as being on a party boat that went into the ocean off of Long Island.  I didn’t own or inherit a pole but once in a while I got to feel the tug of the fish.  I accompany my FHB but more as a distant observer.  He is a solitary fisherman and I give him his space to cast and wait, and wait, and wait.  In our years together, the number of fish that felt sorry for him and jumped on the hook were less than could be counted on two hands.  Several years ago in New Hampshire I heard him call me to come and see his catch.  He triumphantly displayed a small, actually tiny fish, about four inches long who looked up with those big fish eyes, imploring him to throw him back.  I made sounds of great approval and memorialized the moment in a photo and the fish was released back into the wild.  I returned to my book, under a tree, only to be called yet again to see fish number two, followed by fish number three.  A little Dr. Seuss-ish.  I have an eye for details and my gut told me that this fish looked awfully familiar and if I was correct, my FHB did not catch three fish, but one fish three times.  I kept this information to myself.  I don’t like to spoil someone’s moment in nature.

My own fish story goes back to when I was about ten and our family and my parents’ close friends and their son, went to Canada.  We went to Lac Chat in the Laurentians, as this was the place that both couples had met on their honeymoon.  The lake was filled with sunfish or as my father would call them “sunnies”.  I didn’t have a pole but the fish swam around my feet and I was able to reach down and catch one with my hands.  I took my prize and ran back to the cabin.  I knew the taste of victory and as this was day two of our vacation, I put the fish in a drawer in the bedroom because my plan was to bring it back to New York and show my friends.  Needless to say, I didn’t mention it to my parents or my sister, since I wanted to bring it back to New York as my souvenir.  I checked on it frequently to make sure it was still there. After about two or three days, my mother said to my father that something reeked.  My mother was not much of a fan of dead fish and living with a recreational fisherman led her to set clear parameters of bringing fish home, gutted and cleaned, before he crossed the doorway.  My father just took her comments as more of the same.  I had to admit that after a few warm days in the drawer the fish just didn’t look so good and smelled even worse.  However, I was dogged about keeping my prize.  The fish remained there and decomposing until day four when my mother insisted that my father find the source of the now pretty rank odor.  Long fish story short….my secret was revealed.  My father and I had one of those conversations that  I now recognize as a parent’s moment when you want to laugh and hug your child but you need to have that serious talk about poor decisions.  I know he thought I was enterprising but the smell of bleach still lingers because that was part of my penance.

The one that almost got away, or the one I almost got away with.

My Happy Place


I have had a song in my head for the past three days.  It keeps me company and has a beginning phrase, and a short middle passage and then it ends on a happy note that is final, but in a lovely way.   It is not a song you would be familiar with since I created it.  I’ve been trying to distract myself from it, but it’s with me.  It’s what one would probably call a little ditty, if one was around, whoever one is. You know who one is, a cousin of they, them, and everyone.

It is nice to daydream of places that make me happy.  It is easier to imagine the places I have been, rather than consider what it would be like to be in new places that I have never visited. That, to me, is more work and challenges my imagination. When I go to my happy place, I know where everything is, what the weather is like, and who is there and what I am going to do.  It is a vacation of the mind.  This is very different from a being out of my mind, which is somewhat like a virtual voicemail that says “I’m currently out of my mind, so leave a message and the likelihood I will get back to you is as good as winning the lottery without buying a ticket”.  This kind of mental vacation is good for you.  It is a conscious attempt to revisit something that holds you.

In the past, I would have identified my place as somewhere near the ocean.  I like seeing the waves and tide going in and out and knowing what is past the horizon and watching the birds, and sometimes the people who are in my line of sight.  It is calming and constant.  More recently, I travel back to last summer at the goat farm my FHB and I spent some time visiting.  It was oppressively hot and dry and the heat beat down hard as I helped milk the goats and clean up after the horses.  It was hard work and physical labor, which is not something I have ever done, apart from moving fourteen times, and packing and unpacking.  That is about the extent of hard work of a physical kind.  I can smell the hay and the dirt and feel the heat off the animals as they try and flick away the mosquitos and flies.  I sit and watch the farmer tend the goats with care and affection and call them each by name.  In a short time,  I learn their names and personalities.  I want to know them again. I want to be there.  It still has such a strong hold on my heart.  The unfortunate part was that we were the last guests to visit as the farmer was moving his herd to a warmer climate down south.  Vermont was getting far too cold and too hard to make a living , so heading out made sense for him.

This is probably one of the memories that I have held onto for a longer time than others.  It became more than a vacation and turned into an awareness.   We can’t always look past what we have seen, despite trying.  It becomes more of our own fiber, and part of who we now are.  My takeaway is that we are constantly growing and refining what we are about.  This is one of those happy places, I have to build on to understand why it has impacted me to such an extent.  We have to allow these “intrusions” access to  our minds.  Between the goat farm and the song in my head, I feel quite busy and I welcome them both and anticipate that they will evolve into something I will figure out along the way.

This long weekend is always my favorite. It is like Saturday and Sunday and then another Saturday and Sunday.  How great is that!  Hope your weekend is good so far.  Don’t save me any pie. I am so full.