Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Closing Time

I am thankful for a rainy day today. 

A rainy day to take down and dust pictures, wash curtains, really vacuum the corners. Think quietly about all the happenings, good and bad, of the last six months.  It’s “closing time” for those of us who summer on the Maine Coast.  The heater going on several times during the night and the grasses frosted in the mornings signal that it is time for our exodus to warmer homes in the “South”.  Florida or the Carolinas. Georgia. In my case, south is Massachusetts.  Cold comfort, indeed.

Like many whom I speak to in passing, I don’t know where this Summer went.  The rainy June made way for a cool-ish July, and those “lazy-hazy days of Summer” seemed to have passed us by quite completely. In late August, the neighborhood emptied of college students and teachers first, then the kids returning to elementary or high schools. We put our youngest daughter on a plane bound for Jaipur, India for a semester of study.  

By Labor Day weekend, Route 1 in Wells, Maine was quiet.  Peacefully, startlingly so. And still, the days flashed by.

Luckily, the 90 mile drive to the seashore is one I don’t mind taking during the late Fall and Winter months.  There are those who need to see the mountain vistas to refresh their souls, but I long to stare out on the vast sea, smell the tang in the air, listen to the waves lapping the shore.   I’ll make the trek, at least once a month, to sit on the wall at Fisherman’s Cove.  The houses that stand guard on that stretch of shore will be vacant and boarded up.  The gulls will be quiet, watchful, trying to conserve energy. And I, bundled-up and hopeful, will be planning the events of next Summer.  All those busy activities we think we should do -- that somehow get forgotten in the slower rhythm of life by the seashore. – And that’s ok, too.  

Being here is enough. And I am thankful for this rainy day so that I can remember that being here is enough.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday, Monday ...

Well – Another Monday and still no magical offers of employment.  The job boards this morning are empty of roles that I could perform.  I feel like I’ve tapped out the good will of friends and colleagues who were so anxious to help when I was initially let go from my company of 28 years.  Seven months later, I am still emotional. Hurt. Angry. Bereft. Fearful. Why me? Why, at this point in my life?

A successful business woman for all those years. Someone whom people could count on to help out, get the job done, come through in a pinch. A woman with stature, power, wisdom. Hopefully, grace.

Who woulda thunk it? 

I think back to all the times I stepped out on a limb to do the right thing. Did I step too far?  

I think about joking with my team about my retirement count-down. (Now that was probably very stupid!)  

We all grouse about our bosses, but did some un-complementary comment, spoken in a confidential conversation, wend its way back to him/her?

In all the rounds and rounds of layoffs that I participated in and survived over the last 15 years, I tried to be kind.  To offer help to colleagues who needed a letter of recommendation or an introduction to a hiring manager.  I fought for funding to keep contract staff productive and on-board. (Probably long after I should have.)

Ego?  Did I get too cocky, comfortable, was I not appropriately respectful to some superior?  Did I push too hard for a program, employee – choose the wrong hill to die on?  Because my professional life does, indeed, seem to be dead this beautiful September morning.

Seven months.  I still rack my brain every morning to find the clue as to WHY?

Pema Chodron, the first American woman to be ordained in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, makes an observation about the healing nature of pausing in one’s flight though life. “In the next moment, in the next hour, we could choose to stop, to slow down, to be still for a few seconds. We could experiment with interrupting the usual chain reaction, and not spin off in the usual ways. We don’t need to blame someone else and we don’t need to blame ourselves.”

I am reaching for my car keys. Time to pause to watch the harbor seals, and let go of today’s blame game …

There’s always tomorrow.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

And so, Siobhan begins her India adventure. One step. Months of reading, studying, research. 20 hours in an airplane. Weeks of planning, hand-wringing and imaginings. Tens of arguments. Sleepless nights. Worry. Giddy excitement. Packing. Re-packing. A few more arguments. We frame these loud discussions with sick humor. Hysterical laughing. Weeping.

The sky weeps, too. Bawls, really. What happens when a N’oreaster meets Gulf Stream low pressure system? A hybrid creating chaos, cold and wind. “Danny” --the name for a sweet Irish lad. Not. Possibility of flights delayed or cancelled. The drive into Boston is tense. The rain falls sideways and people drive like the moon is full. I try to shoot some video of this first step. Lame.

We sit together for a few minutes to savor a “last” taste of New England: a bowl of Legal chowder with fish and chips. Jesse Jackson and two companions eat at the table behind us. They looked tired, sad, distracted, having recently attended Ted Kennedy’s funeral Mass in Mission Hill. Another journey originating in Boston today.

American flight 547 leaves right on time.

Sio calls from the arrival gate in Chicago. They have landed. She is safe and excited. She’s worried about hauling her stuffed carry-ons to the international terminal. As luck would have it, her departure gate is right next to her arrival gate. In the Ladies, she shoots and posts a “thumbs-up” pic on FaceBook. On her way.

I study her face and wonder why she must travel 10,000 miles to discover her independence. Dear Siobhan, may this journey enrich your life in so many ways. I wish I could share some of these times with you, but I know they are your times, not mine.

“I dreamed a thousand new paths. I woke and walked my old one.” Chinese Proverb. I wear comfortable shoes with new orthotics. I carry too much baggage around my waist. I am envious of your adventure, but content to sit by the sea wall and watch the seals. On Mondays I play with dear Dora and on Wednesdays, sweet Avery totally tires me out.

Have a blast, Baby Girl.

Monday, June 29, 2009

“The obligation to endure gives us the right to know."

Jean Rostand, French writer and biologist

I am blessed to be able to spend my summers in a small cottage-park on the coast of southern Maine.

In past years, the screen-porch was my office. It was the place in which I wrote business plans, conducted conference calls and team meetings, answered 80 or more e-mails a day – all while listening to the love-song of a male house wren who nested down with his ladybird in a planter on our porch.  Summer of 2009 finds me in “early retirement”, quietly enjoying this same space, knitting or spinning, reading or writing in my own time, for my own pleasure.

The Maine shore and several miles of beautiful, walk-able Wells Beach are 1.1 miles from my little home.  But between the beach and my summer castle is, perhaps, one of the loveliest stretches of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Preserve.

A little background and history about the Preserve.  By the 1500’s, traders and fishermen were using the Wells beaches regularly for access to and between early settlements. These barrier beaches were described in deeds as “seawalls”, and were the main “wall”, protecting the marshes from the waters of the Atlantic.  The value of the marsh hay with its high mineral content was critical to the survival of the settlers’ livestock, and Wells, which had been blessed with ample marshes, had a head start in building and maintaining a successful settlement. 

Fast-forward 200 years. In an effort to protect coastal salt marshes as estuaries for thousands of migratory birds, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Preserve was established in 1966, in an agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Maine Ten tracts of land, consisting of over 9000 acres, scattered along 50 miles of coastline between Kittery and Cape Elizabeth, Maine were designated as “protected” under state and federal law.

I’d invite visitors to Southern Maine to turn a bit inland of an afternoon to explore the riches of this special place on the coast.  Rachel Carson’s book, “The Sense of Wonder”, photo-illustrated and published posthumously, was originally written as a 1950’s magazine article entitled, “Help Your Child to Wonder”. In the piece, Carsonoutlines her philosophy that, as adults, we must nurture a child’s inborn sense of wonder about the world around us.  

Sounds like a good family afternoon to me.

The beaches of Southern Maine are awesome indeed, but don’t forget check out the beauty and majesty of nature in the tidal pools and salt marshes, too.  Here are a couple of great places to get started:



Laudholm Farm, Wells, Maine


Rachel Carson Writes About Wildlife Refuges*

“If you travel much in the wilder sections of our country, sooner or later you are likely to meet the sign of the flying goose — the emblem of the national wildlife refuges.

You may meet it by the side of a road crossing miles of flat prairie in the Middle West, or in the hot deserts of the Southwest. You may meet it by some mountain lake, or as you push your boat through the winding salty creeks of a coastal march. Wherever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization. Wild creatures, like men, must have a place to live. As civilization creates cities, builds highways, and drains marshes, it takes away, little by little, the land that is suitable for wildlife. And as their space for living dwindles, the wildlife populations themselves decline. Refuges resist this trend by saving some areas from encroachment, and by preserving in them, or restoring where necessary, the conditions that wild things need in order to live.”

— Rachel Carson                              

*This essay introduced the series, "Conservation in Action," a marvelously written collection of narratives about refuges and the refuge system. When she wrote this, Rachel Carson was a scientist and the chief editor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.





Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesdays with Avery Pearl


First of all, thanks to my friends who read my maiden blog and shared some interesting advice for the rest-of-my-life occupation: 

-          Sing for my supper. I like this one. -- There are few activities on this planet that give me more pleasure than singing!

-          Shave for my supper. My alpacas, that is. Good thought, but that revenue just about covers feed.  Theirs, not mine.

-          Write a book for young professional women re: the things they don’t tell women in business school. Hmmm. Where to begin?

-          Keep those ideas coming …

 And “Rain in Maine” Poll update:  Think about acquiring boat-building materials…

One of the perks of being a fifty-something unemployed woman is that I get to spend more time with my beautiful grand-children.  In the middle of my job search week, each Wednesday, I bolt out of bed at 6:30AM, shower and GET OUTTA MY PAJAMAS so I can have a play day with Avery Pearl. (Did I ever approach the hi-tech workday with such joy and anticipation?)  She’s at that wonderful age when her brain seems to be reaching out and grabbing new ideas at every waking moment.  She vocalizes in the grocery store. She traces oatmeal circles on her high-chair tray.  She has mastered the games of peek-a-boo, throw-something-and-Grandma-will-pick-it-up, and patty-cake, patty-cake.  I’m not sure who is more delighted with her accomplishments, Grandma or Baby Ave.

During my own stint as a parent, I must admit to not “seeing the forest for the trees”.  But the total responsibility and sheer terror I felt as a young mother has been replaced by a profound respect for the amazingly hard work of parenting, and the remarkable skills that my two older children have demonstrated so far.  I am privileged to witness in my grand-daughters, from the perspective of an “elder”, the complex, miraculous process of growing into unique individuals.


I have also learned in these past two years that being a grandparent gives one the opportunity to really experience his or her own children again.  In Isadora, son Jesse’s loving and precocious two-year-old, I see not only a physical resemblance but a similar heart: generous and sensitive, with a quirky sense of humor.  And while she looks very much like her dad, Avery embodies daughter Julia’s spirit of adventure, dogged determination, and (almost) perpetual happy disposition.

So the rain continues to fall, sometimes in torrents, on the Maine Coast.  But today, I feel better about everything.  I get to “hold my little fat baby in my arms again” – which happens to be a line from a Pete Seeger song that just about sums it all up.  Circle-of-life stuff, that is.

Check out “Little Fat Baby” on Pete’s newest album, "At 89" released earlier this year.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What am I doing for the rest of my life?

It's 1:30 PM and I am still in my pajamas, searching online job-boards, eating stale popcorn and waiting for the rain to end. 
As a recently "retired" hi-tech marketing manager I am, at 55 years young, trying to decide how to earn a living to support the rest of my life.  
I remember my dad being laid-off at age 54, back in 1972.  I was a sophomore in college. We didn't have online job boards then, so unlike me -- looking for work in my PJs -- he'd get up, Monday through Friday at his regular work time to shower, shave and put on a suit and tie. He'd read and circle the day's want ads while he drank his morning coffee, and resume in hand, he'd make the rounds of potential employers.  It took him four months of this routine to actually land a job.   One that he happened to love, by the way, working as a credit manager for Harris Seeds in Rochester, NY. 
My youngest daughter is just about to start her senior year of college, and she'll be traveling abroad to complete research for her senior thesis.  I feel a bit like I'm traveling abroad, too.  I am, at least, in a foreign country.  The land of older workers who have had to face competing for precious few jobs with a skilled and energetic younger workforce.  It's a place to which I never would have chosen to travel, and it's a territory whose successful navigation demands courage, perseverance and stamina. 
Some days, I feel up for the journey, and others, like this rainy Tuesday, I am discouraged and wondering -- What WILL I do for the rest of my life?
It is my intention, dear reader, to live until I'm 105, so your ideas are encouraged and most welcome!