I Hate To Leave This Beautiful Place

A Memoir by Howard Norman

This book was given to me two years ago from a student. It has sat unobtrusively on my shelf because of the cover. A cover which conveys melancholy. Melancholy by nature, I was hesitant, even fearful, in taking on a new author’s experiences similar in nature. Time was needed for a slow acquaintanceship with Mr. Norman.

However, steeped in sadness about the state of the world in this month and this year it seemed appropriate. I wonder if this only makes sense to me, dear reader?

Set in the mid-1960s with a beginning that is both familiar and almost endearing – a bookmobile, the apothecary (see, drug store) with soda fountain, I was lulled immediately into a sense of kinship with the author. His subsequent memories through the years in the narrative dispelled this feeling. All too soon I became the outsider looking in. The outsider wondering how on earth this young man, this married man, this father and husband, managed to get through his life with so much of himself intact.

His is a life that meanders; conscious direction seems to be an afterthought. From Grand Rapids to the Arctic to Halifax to Washington, D.C. he careens, geographically; so too do the events that affect his trajectory from the humorous to the mundane to the tragic. The overlapping of these parallel paths is the story. His story.

A whole world of detours, unbridled perplexities, degrading sorrows, and exacting joys can befall a person in a single season, not to mention a lifetime.

p.85

It was only at the end where I almost – almost – closed the book. Some tragedies are too heart wrenching. Living life is not for the timid. And while no pretensions, no hubris comes through with Norman, he is not timid. I am grateful for his courage.

A sincere thank you to my student at St. Alban’s School for expanding my universe with this author’s writing. You know who you are!

Norman, Howard. I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2013. Print.

Poetry from the porch #5

MY SONS

My sons were both born in the season I cherish.

Nature’s rhythms begin to slow.

Irish sweaters, worn in so many places, are pulled out to air. Thrown carelessly, but with love, over the old chestnut banister.

It is the time to pull in and hunker down, anticipating winter’s gift of solitude.

Oh yes, late blooms still remain on the shrubbery’s branches, where pale reds and violets preen themselves.

Outer foliage dies. But roots, deep down, refresh themselves.

This is the season where what was once nimble, even spirited in spring, allows itself a graceful decline. Where new life is nurtured within the strength of what was once young.

My sons, I remember holding you in my arms while the gentle, autumn light blankets us.

My sons, it is a good season for birth. 


When the boys were young, the beach trips were during the autumn months.

© 2019 Tina Hudak Dedicated to Sam & jack

This Morning Where I Live: a poem

I

Today, it is spring where I live.

Today, the sky is almost too blue and

   the clouds, are a brilliant white.

Today, the forsythia’s buds are bursting and

   illuminated by the morning’s slant of sun against

   the bark of the ash tree.

This tree that stands straight and proud.

II

Sometimes, on some early mornings,

   my small world takes away my breath.

Today, it also breaks my heart.

Oh, the joy of living in it!

“Twilight” painted in gouache (8.5″ x 1.75″) was created in 1984; Both art & poem are by Tina Hudak Ⓒ 2019.

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Sligo Creek & a morning walk

Any Thing

You must enter in

To the small silences between

The leaves,

You must take your time

And touch the very peace 

They issue from.

excerpt from this poem by John Moffitt

One good thing, more than likely, leads to another.

We have all heard this, but I wonder, “Do we expect ‘good things’ to loom large; do we pay attention to the small ‘good things’ that affirm faith in this?

Today offered a quintessential autumn morning. Cool enough for a hooded sweatshirt, rather worn, and a wooly scarf. Sun, but deflected somehow by the remaining leaves, so that no sunglasses are necessary. Slight breeze – a reminder of life’s transience and its joy, today.

Sligo Creek Parkway is a respite, an oasis, for those of us who wish we lived in the country, but are wedded to the macadam highways and convenience of the corner store or local bakery. On Sundays the winding road among the towering trees and running creek is closed to traffic between specific destinations. It is for leisurely pedestirans, toddlers on tricycles, dogs sniffing the wildlife scents that permeate these woods in abundance.

I offer a few photographs and sounds from this early morning walk. I offer a glimpse of a poem by this little-known author, found in a children’s poetry book living in relative obscurity (not unlike the poet) on my shelves, a lovely blog and an online biography of the poet (alas, there is no fact-verification on his bio) which brings even more meaning.

All these good things from one, brief walk in November.

Lastly, I offer this good thing: Should you ever find yourself far from your bucolic and rural surroundings while visiting the geography of suburbia, Sligo Creek Parkway is there as a touchstone.

For you.

In all seasons.


Dunning, Stephen, and Edward Lueders, and High Smith, Editors. Reflections On a Gift of Watermelon Pickle…and other modern verse.  Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1967. Print.

Travels by foot

Walking along the creek

My inner Jane Austen emerged today from its deeply buried cavern where concrete highways slice the daily landscape of this life.

Sligo creek

I took a walk. A walk alongside a somewhat meandering path through a moderately wooded area; nothing like the above Austen hills and dales, but valued regardless. Near this very path, there is a black-top, a two-lane road, which parallels the woods lining the creek. Most often, It is here, with the windshield before my eyes, that my view is filtered while driving back and forth through the neighborhoods.

I am one step removed from the visceral experience that the nature of Sligo Creek offers so generously.

Not today. Today was a different day. I accepted the gift of a walk.

“Withal,” I set out doggedly, à pied, and with a broad swath of time before me. A visit to a friend where she is in the midst of being dutiful, but this time to herself instead of others as she regains her strength. Carrying carefully wrapped gifts and with a light step, I even felt Austenian!

reflection

Along my way to her this is what I found: sounds of birds – a flicker a frog  croaking somewhere – unseen –  from a muddy pond;  creek water running over rocks furiously, and then, gently.

This is what I viewed: a waning emerald canopy towering above me, its permutations burgeoning upward, the sun breaking through all this to illuminate ranunculus ficaria L. in all her abundant joy, and others with their dogs and those tails, meteoric metronomes, tracking only the woodland smells.

ranculus

This interlude, this remarkably simple choice gave me “the exquisite enjoyment of air.” Now, to re-read Miss Austen.

“The whole country about them abounded in beautiful walks. The high downs which invited them from almost every window of the cottage to seek the exquisite enjoyment of air on their summits, were a happy alternative when the dirt of the valleys beneath shut up their superior beauties…”


“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

No more school

School is now closed

Entering into this autumn and a new school year – one that no longer pulls at me – I have cleared away the laptop, the phone, all their dense, tangled cords, and cables. The drafting table is sparse. My newly purchased set of color pencils sit next to an old sketch. An imagination, one hibernating under obligations for so long,  is stirring now. Here. In this room.

After the frenetic push and pull of the weeks and months and years as a teacher, I retreat into this room. When the cicadas lie sleeping, and the dusk quickens into night, the generosity of autumn will spill carelessly into my world.

This room will hold the slow pace and easy hours of days unplanned. My new world is in tune with nature. Nests lie barren tucked into hidden place. Blooms wane and wither leaving a carpet of their past glories.robin's nest

The dark, dry seeds from the summer garden gathered in small jars sit quietly. In this room. Here, I will plant them into clay pots of all sizes. Some are chipped, but all are loved. Shades of blue, green, orange, violets and reds – all from the summer garden, these will paint my winter walls.

All will blossom indoors during the chilling months ahead.

Evening blossoms. Autumnal evenings. In this room.


Some titles from my bookshelves…

Burnett, Frances Hodgson, and Tasha Tudor, illus.  The Secret Garden. HarperCollins Books, 1990. Print.
Kephart, Beth, and William Sulit, photo. Ghosts In the Garden: Reflections on Endings, Beginnings, and the Unearthing of Self. New World Library, 2005. Print.
Kincaid, Jamacia, and Jill Fox, illus. My Garden (Book): Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999. Print.
Sims, Michael. The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Young Man’s Unlikely Path to Walden Pond. Bloomsbury, 2014. Print.
Stewart, Sarah, and David Small, illus. The Gardener. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.  Print.

Areas of Fog

Memoir & the weather

A slim book. Cover art with that of a “cloud cleaner.” And, dense with wisdom and humor.

Living in New England, Will Dowd explores “weather” as a visual backdrop and an emotional metaphor for living. Arranged by month, then, topics, the reader thinks he or she knows what to expect, but rarely does this happen. The twists and turns Dowd follows with his writing, while appearing effortless, are carefully crafted to make his point. July’s “Ocean Sounds” resonate with me so well. Sitting on the beach. Overhearing fragments of other’s conversations and while one’s thoughts run a commentary; all this speaks to human nature both in general and of the individual.

“Not today.”

-Woman with a grey bun defending her bag of cherries from a swooping seagull.

Note: Sometimes life is uncomplicated (p 80)

So, reluctantly but compelled, I read every word in Areas of Fog, compelled by Dowd’s sound writing and observations; reluctantly as I did not want to reach the end of this brief but meaningful friendship.

I am always grateful to the author, Beth Kephart, who suggested this title via her Juncture writings. A source of inspiration and support, she has never disappointed one with her own writing and words of encouragement to would-be authors, themselves.

The Rain WizardFor readers who have children, a companion book to consider is The Rain Wizard.  This non-fiction and a most unusual historical skill, that of Charles Mallory Hatfield as a rainmaker during the droughts of San Diego in 1925 is a wild and forceful narrative.


Brimner, Larry Dane. The Rain Wizard: The Amazing, Mysterious, True Life of Charles Mallory Hatfield. Calkins Creek. 2015. Print.
Dowd, Will. Areas of Fog. Etruscan Press. 2016. Print.