Friday, June 28, 2013


I sold my new subaru and bought a 2002 4runner. Her name is Bernadette. We have just completed our first solo road trip that went from Vermont to rural Virginia to the Eastern Shore, Western Connecticut and back to Vermont.  This is noteworthy only because it is the first time that I have driven long distance without the pleasure of chatting with tom as i whizzed down the highway.  It is also the first time that I began to realize the division of knowledge that a couple has when they have been married a long time. 

A friend who was widowed four years ago pointed out that he and his wife shared the general responsibilities of life and when it was just him there was a realization of how much the other person did and how much their knowledge was well.. their knowledge.  A silly example for me was I discovered that cars have fuses.  Maybe everyone knows that but I did not as fuses were Tom's department.  I also learned that you can't use orchard spray on Pears.  Then why label the stupid bottle as fruit tree spray.  Pears are fruit duh.   I learned that it is possible to drive at night without crashing the car, that I can pay attention to deer who are determined to become hood ornaments.   I would not normally have done either of those things as Tom was the night driver.  The list in just this last week is long - longer in fact that I had any idea it would become. 

I am glad that I simply went ahead and traded my car in for one that is sturdy, sensible and will see me through on adventures as they unfold.  In the meantime I am keeping good notes on the things that I need to name and remind myself to do. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

lessons at the solstice

Today is the solstice and the official start of summer.  In many parts of the world the solstice is celebrated with fires, chants and prayers.  Because we live so far from the land and the natural world, the solstice isn't even worthy of a "sale" at Macy's.  Summer for Tom and I was always a time of enormous activity. We had gardens, bailing hay and building projects.  The kids got out of school, I was done with my classes and we went on summer rules.  There are only three.  Don't get hurt, don't complain, and dont be rude.  Other than that, it was possible to eat ice cream and pringles for breakfast, sleep in your life jacket, spend an entire day mucking around in boats. We went to Maine for a few weeks and the kids learned to swim, sail, and  generally poop around  on there own.  When home they pursued M and J enterprises which consisted of selling garden produce to the neighbors.  At one point they had 600 bucks in a cookie tin under the bed with an accounting system  worthy of the Ben Bernaki.

The solstice this year for us is one of reflection and intention. My new summer rule is  to practice saying less and listening more - the rest will stay the same.   We will sort out the new order of being, not making any big changes, not trying to learn everything in a day. It took a life time to get to this place there is no reason to assume speed is of the utmost importance.  Still though I look back on summer rules and realize that as guiding principles for a well lived life they are pretty damn good.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fathers Day

Today is father's day and marks another first for us a newly configured family.  Tom and I were never big on what we called hallmark holidays but we often did ridiculous things especially when the kids were little.  On fathers day when Megs was 3 Tom played on a soccer team in Hilo that was largely Samoan. These boys were big as was Tom.  On fathers day meg and I made him a Super-dad cape and topped it off with an over decorated burger king crown.  His arrival at the game was spectacular.  His mates were delighted that a haole family had such a sense of humor.  High fives abounded.  Our father's day celebrations shifted of course as the years went by but they never went totally un- noticed even if it was just a day spent moving rocks or puttering.  Today we are keenly aware of the passage of years and time.  I will spend the day on the tractor, Jeff is at war with the drainage systems of NY, Megs in a tent with her dog.  

 Tom was a truly spectacular dad and one who had no role model or parenting to speak of.  He was present for his kids, adored them and modeled ethical and fair behavior at every turn.  His was a vocabulary of encouragement and gentleness.  His mantra was  How hard can this be...  As the years roll on I know that the foundation he laid for the kiddos will be a strong and sturdy platform that they can reach back to to guide them on their way.  There is no question in my mind that Tom Stasz  deserved the cape

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

cultivating contentment

while in Yoga today our beautiful teacher gave a little chat from one of the sutras about cultivating contentment. It just struck me as about the best advice that could possibly be given regardless of circumstances. Cultivating contentment, like gardening in general, is really about being present, intentional and reasonably quiet.  In our industrialized consumer life - contentment seems elusive.  The news would have you believe that the whole world is going to hell in a handbag and the discontent is the order of the day.  We are always too fat or too thin or too something.  Even growing old is worthy of complaint.  Rather than embracing the idea that "growing old is a privileged denied to many" , there is a tendency to grouse about the pull of gravity.

 I found the idea of "growing contentment" just like growing peonies or iris or carrots a very stabilizing notion.  Here I am in one of the most beautiful places in the world with friends, a garden, an orchard and the memory of a life well lived - being discontent would be an affront to all of that.  Instead I am trying to learn little by little to see contentment differently and that it can arise in surprising places.  I am pretty sure Tom would agree with that.   

Friday, June 7, 2013

better or harder?

It is cloudy and drizzly in Vermont this morning. Even my normal routine of hot tea around six on the porch swing was shorter than normal due to the weather.  I rely on that time to watch the sunrise, think about the coming day and wonder how Tom is faring and where he might be.

The interesting thing about becoming a widow is that you are catapulted into a new colony of travelers.  we find each other in odd places. You would think we are all married as most of us still wear wedding rings - a coupled state of mind. Widows have an intimacy that belies the amount of time they have known each other. We tell each other things that in normal circumstances would not be a topic of conversation.  However the overall topic is how to help each other through this or more to the point to find a destination that makes sense.  Most everyone says that it will get better. 

For me at least, it just feels like it is getting harder.  It is not a question of support as I gratefully have loads of that. It is a question of how to fashion a new life one that was not expected or wanted.  What will I become when I grow up?  What will I do with my talents?  These are not self serving questions but they are ones that deserve considerable thought to make good decisions that capitalize on the life Tom and i had together and the family and home-place we built.  Suggestions are gratefully accepted . 

Monday, June 3, 2013

falling down

I am just back from my mom's 93 birthday where I managed to fall down again and whack my ribs. This is only worthy of comment because in the last year I have fallen down more than in my whole life.  I fell down and got five stitches at Mount Sinai at the nurses station.  I fell down in the subway running to catch a bus. I fell down in the street, in the elevator and various other interesting venues. This last time I fell down  was two days ago trying to find Bushy's dog who had decided to go for a stroll in the neighborhood at ten at night.

One might ask .. big deal birdie you are falling down.  I do think though that there is a pattern here.  I fall down when the noise and the chaos of life seem to be so loud I can  barely think. I am to respond to the unfamiliar from the stance of the familiar which simply does not work.  There is a disequilibrium that comes when the comfort zone is far out of whack.  I am not sure this has much to do with gravity as it has with our own precarious place in our own lives.  I have gone, for example, from married to widow, from coupled to uncoupled, from comfortable to painful in the space of a few months.  It is not to complain but it is to say that it changes the lens that saw the world in one way - the familiar to the unfamiliar.    To borrow a tired cliché it is Alice's rabbit hole. 

The painful piece of this is that falling down is really about getting up and how to do that with grace, determination and the realization that tom would love to be getting up is the trick.  Sentimentality only goes so far. Rather this is question of "staying on your pins" and moving forward without breaking your bones or your heart.