Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Old House

I bought this house in 1982. From the moment I opened the front door, I knew it was mine. The modest size, the Cape Cod style, the East Forest Park neighborhood--all reminded me of the home where I grew up on Lancaster Street just a couple of miles away. Add to that, the fact that the house at the end of the street had once been my father’s boyhood home, and his grandfather’s farm had been just a ways up Allen Street. It seemed I was destined to call this place mine.

That’s not to say I loved everything about the house when I moved in. The garage was a problem. It was settling, and the door was rotted. Still I was happy to have a garage at all, never before having been able to shelter my car from New England winters. The kitchen was the worst problem. There were only four cabinets and very little counter space. The dropped ceiling hid water damage and dangerous wiring. Then there was the mural—a turquoise scene of peasants dancing around a pagoda. I’m sure previous owners thought it was beautiful, but it annoyed me every time I looked at it.

Little by little over the years, I fixed, repaired, revamped, and expanded.  Early on I had a new floor poured in the garage. That was after my father laid a new cinder block foundation, jacking up each wall of the garage as he did. My nephew Thomas re-tiled the bathroom and closed in the side porch. New wall-to-wall was installed, as well as new flooring in the kitchen.

In 2005, after living with this kitchen I really hated for 23 years and the inconvenience of one bathroom on the second floor, I took on a major renovation of the kitchen, as well as the addition of a family room and a downstairs bathroom. This meant the mural was finally gone!

With each new coat of paint, each redecoration, each new room, the house became more and more me. (Full of my stuff too!) Then one day as I was taking a break from cleaning, (I tend to break a lot when I clean) I started to think about the people who had lived here before. The house was built in 1938, and I knew at least three families had lived here. I had bought it from Mr. Christensen who had bought it from the Greenbaums who had bought it from the Jolys. Maybe there had been more.

Each owner likely thought of my house as their house, and someday, I suddenly realized, other people would come into my house and make it theirs. At first, this thought made me angry--as if some anonymous person would steal what was mine. But, of course, that was silly. When the next owner arrives, he/she will do so either because I have relinquished ownership of the house or my life.

Barring fire or other tragedy, this house will remain when I have moved on. Other people will paint the walls a different color, move in new furniture, and find aspects they dislike (But not the mural!). They will create their home in this space where I have created mine. I wish them and my house well.

But I’m not planning on leaving quite yet. I still have to fix the doorknob to the porch, and repair the threshold at the front door, and the find out what’s causing the water spot on the ceiling of the family room and maybe paint the family room a different color, and...

Friday, December 16, 2016

Thanksgiving 1950 Photograph

George Emil and Carrie Julia Rose Schneeloch

I was five years old that Thanksgiving, but I remember Alvin taking this picture as well as one of my parents at the same spot in front of the living room window on Lancaster Street. This is how I remember my grandmother--the tightly curled hair, the rimless glasses, the half smile. I have more memories of my grandfather who came to live with us just a year later when my grandmother died. She was 68 years old in this photo. I am taken a bit aback when I realize she is three years younger here than I am now.

I remember her too at their home on Allen Street where on overnight visits she read to me on the porch, made vanilla pudding with orange slices, tucked me into my father's childhood bed at night.  I remember Mr. and Mrs. Prouty and their friends who came to play bridge. There were lots of card games on the heavy brown metal card table that now is folded next to the computer in my office.

I have many other pictures of her too. There is the one of the young mother in the white dress holding the baby that was my father. 

Even earlier there are pictures of her and her brother Frank dressed in their Sunday clothes posing for a photographer in West Springfield whose name remains on the photograph but whose address no longer exists.

I look into those young eyes and try to see what she saw all those years ago at the end of the 19th century. Could she see what amazing things would happen in her lifetime?

I try to see what she expected of her future. Did she imagine marrying on New Year’s Eve of the new century? I’m sure she never imagined that she would be a widow by the following spring.
Did she imagine meeting the gentle man that was my grandfather? The man who sits beside her in the Thanksgiving picture?

She had so much future that to me is invisible past, yet I keep looking in her eyes in hopes of finding it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hearing Difficulties

Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness. Our listening creates sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person.
~Rachel Naomi Remen, M. D.

Several years ago I called the electric company to report a buzzing sound I thought was coming from the utility pole outside. The repair man arrived, put on his belt, equipment dangling from its side, and climbed up the pole with his spiked shoes.

When he climbed back down, he told me he couldn’t find a problem. I was confused. Then,  after he left, I went back in the house. There I realized I could still hear the sound. Then it came to me--the ringing was coming from me, from inside my ears--Tinnitus.

Once I recognized the problem, I adjusted. Most of the time I don't even notice it, but it's still there. Right now, for example, because it's quiet, I'm very aware of it.

So all the time, whether I'm aware of it or not, there's something blocking my hearing things exactly as they are. From what I've read there's no good treatment for this malady. One must simply adjust.

It occurs to me that there are other maladies that block one's hearing things exactly as they are. I have an occupational hazard that affects me that way. As a retired English teacher, when I am listening to someone I am immediately thrown off-course when they make what, to me, is a glaring grammatical mistake.

A friend could be pouring out her heart to me, telling me a tragic story of a broken relationship, for example, but if she were to say, "Things between Mark and I have never been the same since we moved," my brain would be stopped immediately at the pronoun I, and never hear the rest of the sentence. Others may be distracted by an accent, a skin tone, a head covering, anything that moves one back inside one's head and away from the speaker.

To truly listen is a very self-less act. It means putting away all one's agendas, priorities, foregone conclusions and opening up to the other person. It is not easy. Truly, when I hear another person say something that disturbs me, I tend to either immediately “correct” them or walk away and ignore them. Conversely when I speak and someone seems not to be paying attention, I feel my temperature rise.

We all want to be heard. We want to know that what we say is important, so if I walk away when you speak, and you ignore me when I speak, neither of us is heard, and both of us will be angry

Some have said that listening is truly an act of love. After last week’s election, it seems clear that we need, more than ever, to listen and hear each other if we are ever to learn to live together peacefully.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Sliding into October

Anyone who knows me knows I love baseball, the Red Sox most specifically. I like football too. Last night when the Sox and the Patriots were playing at the same time, I was, thanks to modern technology, watching the Sox on television while at the same time watching the Pats on my iPad. It worked out surprisingly well, and they both won!

I know many eschew baseball for being slow and plodding, but that's part of what I like about it--that and the fact that you know who the players are and where they are on the field. In football, which I grant I understand less than baseball, too often they end up in a pile of elbows, butts, and helmets.

The men who broadcast baseball (are there any women?) fall into two categories--the play-by-play guy and the color guy. The former tells what's happening on the field, what the batter's count is, who caught the ball in the field, or whether a fly ball near the Pesky Pole (Fenway's right field foul pole) was declared foul or fair. The color guy elaborates on the plays, relates it to a player's history, or talks of a former player who did a similar thing. The moments between pitches or during pitching changes or while waiting while the umpires put on their earphones to await word from New York about a challenged play allows for conversation between the two of them.

The other night there was a conversation about sliding into base. One said that the experts (whoever they are) assert that sliding does not get a runner into base any quicker than if he were to run. The other disagreed. They proposed to set up an experiment to find out, but then agreed it was impossible, so each settled back into his own point of view. Like many of these conversations, it was amusing but not of much consequence. 

I do not have an opinion on the efficacy of the slide, but I do enjoy it. There's something about seeing all 5' 9" of Mookie Betts suddenly flying superman-like into second beneath (usually) the glove of the second baseman that is almost balletic, and his smile at having achieved this theft is magnetic. 

Then there is the dirt on his uniform--an orange brown stain that is clear evidence of how he literally throws himself into this game.

Not many games left now. Soon I won't have to watch two games at a time, but before that time there are the playoffs, and who knows what will happen! Fingers crossed here for more magic from Mookie, Papi, Pedey, and the rest of the gang.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Treppenwitz  is a German word for a witty comeback you thought of too late, literally a staircase joke.  It is a translation from the French "l'esprit d'escalier," the idea being that one may only think of a proper rejoinder after one has gone down the stairs and completely left the scene. In my case, the joke only appeared to me as I reached the bottom of the stairs.

This is the week when most kids are heading back to school and parents are posting cute pictures of their smiling kids in the new clothes. On Monday I watched my next door neighbor Emma holding a sign that read "Second Grade 8-29-16" as her mother took her picture. Then she posted it on Facebook next to last year's picture where she was about 2 inches shorter.

I enjoy seeing all these kids heading back to school. When I said that online, a former student said, "You miss it." To which I replied, "Only the smiles." Then I explained the two things I like best about being retired. One, that I don't have to get up and get myself ready and out the door shortly after 6AM. In the winter that frequently meant feeling like a mole as I went to school in the dark and came home in the dark. Now I get to see sunlight at all hours of the day.

But even more than enjoying daylight, I appreciate the absence of the never-ending pile of papers to correct. And my piles did get quite high. Being the procrastinator that I am, Tuesday's assignments got piled on top of Monday's assignments, and sometimes papers from the week before. My book bag was always full to bulging. No wonder I was a regular patient of the chiropractor. I felt bad about this, guilty that I wasn't getting my students' papers back to them as soon as I could.

Then one day as I packed up by bag to go home, I realized that at that exact moment I was caught up. I didn't have one paper that needed to be corrected, not one term paper waiting to be edited, not one set of quizzes that needed grades. I was a happy woman. I could have left my book bag right there in the English office, but I liked the feel of this empty bag on my shoulder.

I opened the door to the stairwell and began descending the familiar steps to the door that led to the parking lot. I began to think of how I had arrived at this pleasant place, and with each step down the stairwell, I became more and more convinced of the answer--I wasn't giving my students enough work. I was not the effective teacher who had completed all her work efficiently. I was the teacher who was short-changing her students by giving them so little work that I could finish it quickly.

By the time I reached the bottom of the stairs, I was laughing out loud. I just couldn't give myself a break. The treppenwitz was on me.

Friday, August 26, 2016


I just had new carpet installed. I know, I know! Carpeting is out and hard wood floors are in. I do watch Property Brothers, after all, but I like carpet, the softness under my bare feet, and I'm not sure of the condition of the old (circa 1938) hardwood floors they cover.

The installers from Bay State Rug (highly recommended if you're in the market) moved all the furniture (including three LOADED bookcases) out and back to their original places. Before that, however, I had to move all the breakables. I covered the kitchen counter with everything in the curio cabinet and the vases in the secretary. All the chotchkies from the aforementioned bookcases were stored in the bathtub. (thank goodness for the downstairs bathroom). 

In the process of moving the breakables, I also moved a couple of cartons of old journals out of the way. I keep these around with the intention of reading through them all and finding what's worth saving and maybe finding something to develop into a poem. But instead, most of the time, they just sit there.

When I got home yesterday the carpet was all finished and looking great, but I knew today would mean putting everything back where it had been, and that would mean dusting all those places that hadn't been dusted in a while. "While" here means maybe since the old carpet was installed.

As I moved the first pile of journals out of the bathroom this morning, a small journal with a sweet pup on the cover came falling out. I didn't recognize it. At first I thought it might have been one of those journals I had bought because I liked the cover but then had never written in, but when I opened it, it was full of writing from 2010, and in between general day-to-day comments, were some gems that I was happy to rediscover.

So now I’m reading the journal, remembering the events in my life that prompted the writing, and thinking about what I can extract for further development. And I am writing this blog post. Anything to avoid dusting!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Day Lilies

Can it be enough

to expose one's whole self for

a moment of sun?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Atlantic City - Two Photographs

Summer 1928

She stands on the Boardwalk
in her Mary-Janes
wearing a cloud of a dress and
a string of pearls.
She smiles as the breeze
blows a wisp of her dark bob.

Below her on the sand
a scattering of bathers
stretch out to the ocean.
Her charges, cousins Sonny and Alice,
build a sand castle
out of the camera's view.

Soon they will follow her back home
to the house on Rhode Island Avenue
where Uncle George rents out a garage
and Aunt Olga runs a rooming house.
where the upstairs rooms go to paying guests
and she and her sister sleep in the basement.

Fall 2002

She stands in her red jacket
arm and arm with Alice
beneath Absecon Lighthouse
($7 now to walk to the top).
The Boardwalk is hidden
behind mammoth casinos.

Uncle George and Aunt Olga are gone
Sonny too, their golden boy,
shot down over North Africa.
Still she smiles, remembering
learning to roller skate,
seeing Jack Dempsey and the first Miss America.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Age of Reason or What I Knew at Seven

I knew the names of all the flowers in the garden on Lancaster Street.

I knew Eisenhower would be a great president because my parents said so, and also because he said he'd end the war in Korea.

I knew the words to "Jesus Loves Me," "A You’re Adorable," and “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."

I knew to wait until my mother finished reading McCall's before I cut out the Betsy McCall paper dolls at the back.

I knew that someday the Russians might drop a bomb on us but if we knelt under our desks we were safe.

I knew that the corn that grew on Sy Kervick's farm at the end of the street would be ripe and sweet in August.

I knew the way my father always tapped his Chesterfield on the horn of the Chevrolet just before he lit it.

I knew that my cousin Bonnie and I would always be together on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I knew Uncle Arthur and Aunt Corinne would travel on the railroad all the way from Pasadena, California, to visit us every fall.

I knew that my father and grandfather had built the little house on Allen Street where I used to go to visit before my grandmother died.

I knew that as much as I loved my grandmother and grandfather, I was a bit scared of their dog Freckles.

I knew the smell of Dr. Leff's office where I had to go for allergy shots because it reminded me of when I went there to have my tonsils removed.

I knew the sounds that came from that from the little red radio above the stove:
    the crack of Ted Williams' bat
            the songs of Eddie Fisher, Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney
           news reports from Carl Desuze and Lowell Thomas

I knew the day I received Patsy the cat was the happiest day of my life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Grandma May's Chair

For much of my life the chair was only a rumor, one of the many stories my mother told about her mother, May Reid Gilpin, who died suddenly weeks shy of her thirty-second birthday, leaving Vera, my mother, age five; Gertrude, my aunt, age nine, and my grandfather, William. 

On that October afternoon in 1917, the family, for all intents and purposes, fractured. Needing to continue his work for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, a job that required him to travel from time to time, William found family members to take care of the girls. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles made room for the three of them, but they were rarely all together.

Furniture and household belongings were not a priority, so the chair, the sole household item left from the family, ended up with Uncle Jim, then with his daughter, Ruth, and there it stayed for seventy years.

From time to time my mother would ask about it, and Ruth would say that it was in bad shape and that she was going to refinish it, but that never seemed to happen. Then, sadly, when Ruth was dying of cancer, she asked my parents to clean out her house, and there was the chair in the basement, and yes, indeed, it was in poor shape. All the upholstery was gone, the springs were rusted, and the frame was broken.

My father began to work on it, removing the springs and what was left of the upholstery, securing the frame, and stripping the finish. So when I inherited it, there was a framework but nothing else.

Not being as handy as my father, I decided to take it to the professionals at M. Demos and Son Furniture Repair Shop where they restored it to what I hope is close to its original beauty.

 I did not know May, of course, but it pleases me every time I walk by her chair to think of how she might have sat in it holding her babies, how its graceful lines must have pleased her, how something of her spirit lives on.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Curiosity Killed Big Ben et al

Betsy McCall now sits safely on a shelf in an antique cabinet. She is the sole survivor of the many dolls I had as a child. You see, I loved my dolls, but I was curious as to how their arms and legs worked, and in an effort to satisfy my curiosity, I pulled them out to see what was going on inside. That’s when the rubber band either snapped or broke, and another doll joined the list of amputees. I have no idea why it wasn’t until Betsy that I figured out that this was not a good idea, but there she sits.

My dolls were not the only victims of my curiosity. There was also that Big Ben alarm clock that woke me every morning, the one with the brass key stuck in its back that had to be wound every night until it could be turned no more. The illuminated numbers that gathered light during the day and returned it at night as a subtle green glow were familiar, as was the tick tick tick from the inside.

The clock was quite reliable as long as I kept it wound and didn't tamper with it, but, again, I was curious. I wanted to know how it worked. What was happening inside that ivory colored metal case to so regularly keep the time of day and wake me when it was time for school?

I didn't hold any bad feelings for the clock, wasn't angry at being awakened from of a sweet dream, but I wanted to know what was hiding behind that shield. 

I had spent enough time with my father at his workbench so that I knew about screwdrivers and how they worked. I knew that the screws holding this clock together were Phillips screws and needed a Phillips screwdriver, so I went down to the basement and found one on his workbench.

Taking off the back was easy, just turn the few screws until they came out, then the back was off. From then on it was a matter of prying and pulling the various springs and bells and gears. Dissecting Big Ben to its basic parts took a while, so when I got all the parts separated, I put them in a shoe box, intending to put it all back together in the morning.

The next day I gathered the pieces and fit them together as well as I remembered their proximity to each other. I fit the gears together and made sure the clapper was adjacent to the bell. It all went well until I put the cover back on and noticed a few parts still in the shoebox.

At least Betsy McCall survived. I think there were a couple of other shoe boxes filled with stray alarm clock parts yet to come.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Churches Revisited

I have been reading with dismay the reports coming back from the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the quadrennial meeting of the international church. It appears that the rift is growing between those who would truly be a church of open doors and those who want to draw hard lines of exclusion. As talk of a split grows, it seems the conference's theme "Therefore, Go" is more than a little ironic.

All this has caused me once again to consider the contrast between the national church and my home church, something I reflected on in a previous post in December of 2013. So I decided to share it once again.

My Churches 
December 2013

On Christmas Eve after the presents are opened, the dishes loaded into the dishwasher, and the guests have left for home, I will sit for just a minute and look at the tree. Then I will bundle myself up and travel down the road to the candlelight service at church. This is always a highlight of my holiday. The beautiful music, the warm candlelight, and the familiar story of wanderers finding crude shelter where their baby will be born amid the animals all remind me once again of what this season is about.

When I speak here of church, I am speaking of the church I attend nearly every Sunday—Trinity United Methodist Church in Springfield, MA. The stone cathedral structure next to Forest Park is quite recognizable to anyone in the Springfield area. It is a beautiful building, but when I refer to the church, I am really talking about the people there. Everyone from the toddler playing peek-a-boo from two pews up to the man from AA who comes in silently, then leaves. Trinity is a warm and welcoming place.

This is why it pains me so when I hear about the other church—that larger church we are a part of—The United Methodist Church. That church has been in the news lately and not for being warm and welcoming—quite the opposite. That church has tried and convicted one of its clergy for violating church law—a law that forbids clergy from marrying couples of the same sex. In effect, that church has punished one of its members for showing love and compassion.

I struggle with being a member of these two churches, and I know I’m not alone. Can I go along worshiping and working in the church that ministers to everyone while, at the same time, being a part of that other church that excludes, judges, and condemns? I don’t know.

A couple of Christmases ago as I entered Trinity for the candlelight service, I saw one very bright star alone in the sky right over the church. I thought, of course, of the Magi who were guided by the star. This Christmas I will pray for that light to fall on both of my churches.

My Church

This is my church - doors open to the noise of the city
This is not my church - doors safely closed

This is my church - hands stretched across barriers
This is not my church - hands rigidly folded

This is my church - a harmony of diverse voices
This is not my church - a monotone of narrow doctrine

This is my church - hearts warmed by love
This is not my church - love limited by decree

My church -
not the closed inn doors
but the welcoming stable.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Green Tub

My “swimming pool” was a metal tub, about 3 feet wide and 5 feet long, made of galvanized steel. The outer surface was painted a light green. My grandfather had constructed it for my father years before. It was stored in the loft of the garage in the winter, but in the summer it was brought out and filled with water. Clearly there was no way, even at 7 or 8, that I could swim in it, but it served as the perfect place to splash around and cool off on hot summer days.

Billy Winship was the only person I knew who had a real swimming pool, a real dug in the ground one behind his house on Pondview Drive. The neighbors were not happy when the machinery arrived to dig up the yard. The homes on Pondview were newer and more expensive. The neighbors were afraid this would bring down property values.

They were not the only ones wary of swimming pools in those days. Summertime meant hearing about children paralyzed with polio, seeing images of iron lungs, and feeling a growing panic about this disease. Many parents saw swimming pools as a breeding ground for this disease. When I invited friends to join me in my “pool,” some of their parents wouldn’t let them come.

Polio was scary, but not an unfamiliar word to me. My father didn’t talk about it much, but my mother told me about how he had contracted it as a young man. His father worked with him daily to try to restore him to health, but, in the meantime, he lost his job at Mass Mutual, and his girlfriend at the time left him for another man. (My mother always told this part with a smile).  

While I was splashing around in that steel tub, I never made the connection that this had been a place of healing for my father, that this tub had been made for him by his father as a place to work his muscles in an effort to save them. It must have been a painful experience for both of them. It cannot be easy to purposely inflict excruciating pain on your only child.

My grandfather spent day after day working his son’s muscles. My father told me once that one of the happiest days of his life was when, after week upon week of work with his father, he had been able to move his arm just two inches away from his side.

By the time I was born several years later, my father showed no effects of the disease except for the spot at the base of his thumb which was concave where the muscle had atrophied. All those days my grandfather and father had worked together had paid off.            .

When I remember that green tub now, I remember less the summer days I spent cooling off in it, but more of the love and dedication of the two men it represents.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Thank You, Hyman Lipman

I learned from the Writers' Almanac today that it was on this day in 1858 that Hyman Lipman of Philadelphia received a patent on the pencil with an eraser at the end. It was also noted that this type of pencil is unique to America; elsewhere in the world, pencils come without erasers, forcing users to either search out a separate eraser or leave all their mistakes exposed.

Why is that, I wondered. Certainly people living in China, let's say, make mistakes. Wouldn't it be handy to have the means of eradicating at least the ones on paper? Then I thought of all the gorgeous Chinese calligraphy, of the careful hands moving the think brush across the paper, turning the sheet into storied art. They appear very careful, but there must be an errant stroke
or a loose drop of ink to deal with from time to time.

Or maybe not. Maybe they, unlike me, can focus so clearly that they create flawless work. I, on the other hand, no matter how much I try to be careful, always mess up in some way. When I decided to paint the guest room, I spread out drop cloths all over the floor and the bed. Every time I dipped the brush into the can of Benjamin Moore Key Largo green, I was careful to wipe off the excess so as not to drip. Every time I moved the ladder, I moved the can to the floor so as not to jostle it. I was really careful. Honest. Then I slipped off the bottom step of the ladder and dropped the can of paint which spilled through a slit in the drop cloth onto the wall to wall carpet.

I mopped up what I could, but still today there is a green spot in the middle of the oatmeal carpet, and it's not even in a spot where I could place a chair over it. Anyone who comes into the room will see it clearly. If there were such a thing as a paint eraser, I would be first in line to buy it. I think Hyman Lipman would appreciate such an invention.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


I dreamed last night
of Donald Trump.
He followed me
from room to room
as I tried to talk to a friend.
He sat beside me on the sofa
moved closer and closer
as I moved farther and farther away
leaned right into my ear,
preventing my conversation.
When I awoke
the voice on the radio
next to my bed
was his.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Grandpa Gilpin's Chair

Grandpa Gilpin’s Chair

I grasp the arms
of the sturdy old chair,
remember your stories of him,
how he sat there by the window
of the house in Enfield.

He would read to you
from the Springfield paper
that arrived on the train,
report the feats of Walter Johnson
and the Washington Senators.

A practiced weaver,
he interlaced stories
of the mother who taught him to read,
the child lost in the well,
the loom in their house in Armagh.

I know him only
through your stories
and this chair 
whose solid frame invites me now 
to sit awhile and remember. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Back Yard Drama

There is an ongoing drama in my yard--a sort of soap opera that I watch from the window by my breakfast table.

I slept a bit late this morning, so as I tuned into the story, it was already going on. The house
sparrows and the hairy woodpecker were already working busily at the perches on the sunflower seed feeder when a dark shadow zoomed in from the north. Before I even noticed its approach, every one of the birds flew off to their secret places. The shadow, it turns out, was nothing but a very chubby pigeon. He’s a new character on the scene. He usually hangs out on the roof line of the taller houses on Powell. What brought him here? Was he just trying to intimidate the smaller avians, or was he unaware of their presence. After he scouted around the grass and found nothing of interest, he flew off,

The next character on the scene was a black squirrel. The gray squirrels are regular visitors and provide the comic relief to our drama. They are in constant action. Whether chasing each other in circles around the trunk of the tulip tree or running along the ridge of the garage roof, then jumping into the hydrangea, they never cease to entertain. But the black one is new. In fact, black squirrels are not indigenous to the region, but were brought here from Michigan in the 1940s as a gift to Stanley Beveridge, the founder of Stanley Park in Westfield, so became a feature there, but now have spread out through Western Massachusetts.

Should we be suspicious of this alien? What’s he really up to? Was he the one that scared away the cardinal family who nested in the hydrangea this summer and have since disappeared?
Or did they just move to a classier neighborhood? We’ll have to keep our eye on that one.

Just now a gray squirrel has found a favorite spot on the hydrangea that was carved out by the woodpecker--a small hole just the right size to store a peanut or a few sunflower seeds. The hole grows larger with each peck and retrieval. How much can the old bush take?

Most of the drama happens offstage, and that is the mystery of it. It keeps us guessing.

Tune in tomorrow to see whether the long, dark, and handsome black squirrel turns out to be a hero or a villain? Or who will retrieve the treats in the hydrangea first, the titmouse or the squirrel? And will the cardinals return?