Thursday, August 31, 2017

A powerful and disturbing film

We went tonight to the premier of a new film by local filmmakers Alan Dater and Lisa Merton. It is called Burned, and is about the biomass fuel industry which is clear-cutting vast acres of forest in the U.S., especially in the Southeast, making it into pellets and shipping it to Europe, where it is used to generate electricity. There are also now over 200 bio-mass generating plants in the U.S., some of which (like one in Michigan), are permitted to burn chipped railroad ties and rubber tires, thus emitting toxic fumes and dust which threaten a nearby town.

There is a widespread misperception that "biomass" = "waste" wood. But entire forests are being consumed. Also, The biomass industry is able to function only because it receives huge government subsidies, without which it would be economically unfeasible. This is true both in the U. S. and Europe. This is based on the fiction that biomass is carbon neutral, and thus a "green" alternative to fossil fuels, like wind and solar. But in reality, burning wood releases as much or even more carbon than coal. In theory, the tree you cut down would eventually have died and decayed and been replaced by another tree. It is a "renewable" resource.  But that takes a long time and global warming is now. The planet needs more trees to sequester existing carbon, not fewer. 

The film sparked a heated discussion with the filmmakers afterward. It is a discussion that needs to take place all over the world . 

 Filmmakers Lisa Merton and Alan Dater

A scene from Burned showing a chip pile at a biomass plant

Dater and Merton made an earlier film about Wangari Mathai, Kenyan Nobel Laureate who started the successful movement to plant trees in Kenya to reclaim the desert. That film led to this one.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Marching on

These past few days I have been a bit distracted from the cleaning out process by company and the need to get our wood stacked, and other tasks. Yesterday I did some mowing, and also cleaned out the woodstove flue, which was much needed, so I could run the stove a bit to warm up the basement  -  we have had some chilly nights. I also reactivated my pool membership. Today, in addition to stacking wood, I pulled out nails from scrap lumber and sawed up the pieces into kindling. So we're making progress on several fronts.

One aspect of cleaning out is going through photographs, both slides and prints. In 1980, I made a trip west by bus and went to Yosemite N.P., among other places. I took black and white photos and developed and printed them in the "darkroom," which is what the "sauna" was back then (the "sauna" that became a storage room and which I just cleaned out). I found a stash of those prints, which I hadn't seen for a while. Here are three favorites:

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite scene

At base of Yosemite Falls

Monday, August 28, 2017


Katie sent me a photo she took of the moment of totality we experienced in Columbia, MO last Monday. Wow!

The full eclipse, Columbia, MO, photo by Katie Shay

We are getting back into the groove. Katie and Savanna came up on Saturday and spent the afternoon and evening with us - a really nice visit. Then, Ellen's friend, Jane Coppack, visited on Sunday. We met her in the morning at Putney Friend's Meeting, then came home for lunch. Had a lovely visit. Today we went over to our friend Eliza's house to help plan a memorial service for her mother, Betty Greenhoe, who died while we were away. I did some mowing, cleaned out the wood stove flue, and now I'm going to re-start my pool membership.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Yes, we are home

We arrived home last evening . Today has been a low-key day. I picked up the mail and talked with Brown Computer Solutions about my computer.  It was slowing down and virtually freezing up on our trip. When I got home it was fine. Turns out that in some locations, my now "old" computer (8 years) struggles to intersect with the internet and throws a fit.  At home, I have no internet, so it relaxes. Sigh . . .

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Penn Yan Diner

It's 1:15p.m., and we are in Penn Yan, NY at the Penn Yan Diner. I and my family moved to Penn Yan exactly 50 years ago, almost to the day, when I joined the faculty of nearby Keuka College. So I guess you could call this a 50th anniversary lunch! 

      The Penn Yan Diner, inside  ...

      ...  and outside

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Erie, PA tonight

We are really covering ground! Normal, IL Monday night, Bartlett, IL Tuesday night, Erie tonight. We had less than 24 hours with Maggie and Jerry, but as usual it was fun and lively. We left this morning around 10a.m., I read from No Ordinary Time much of the way through Indiana and Ohio, and here we are in a Super 8 we have been in many times before. 

         View from bed 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Spoke too soon

As soon as we got north of St. Louis we hit the thousands of eclipse viewers returning to Chicago. I-55 was bumper-to-bumper. We got off on to Rt. 4, but so did a lot of others. It soon became clear we wouldn't get to Bartlett until after 1 a.m., so we called M&J and told them we would stop at  a motel. We went to a Super 8 in Normal, IL. Slept well and late, barely made it to motel Bfst. at 9, made it to Bartlett by 12:45. Lunch, talk, a little nap, read, talk, supper, a little walk, watch The Middle on TV. That's the day! A nice day. 

            The Middle

Monday, August 21, 2017

A successful eclipse!

Everything has gone beautifully so far for the eclipse trip. The sky was hazy but the sun was visible and we got a clear view of the corona during totality. We had a great spot at Betsey's tree from which to watch. The park around us was lovely, there were lots of other people around but not too many. A wedding took place near us during the eclipse - that was cool. A running friend of Betsey's, Denise, joined us at the tree - she had helped select it. Our car was parked nearby so we had our cooler with food and drinks. There were rest rooms nearby. Our solar glasses worked beautifully. We got good photos. Earlier this morning, after we had parked the car, we walked about 3/4 of a mile downtown to Cafe Berln and had a really good breakfast, with plenty of time to walk back before the start of the eclipse. We slept well last  night; the Norgaards were wonderful hosts; we met Marty and Clark at supper last evening - they knew Betsey well through a book group they were in together. Now we are heading to St. Louis. Some traffic but not bad. The forecasted gridlock never occurred. So- perfect!

       Moments before totality

     Denise and Katie

         At Betsey's tree

      Eclipse viewers

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Betsey's tree

We arrived in Columbia, MO at about 10a.m. this morning - maybe even earlier,    after our all-night drive, a hearty 7a.m. breakfast at an Ihop restaurant in St. Louis, and the 2-hour drive here to Columbia. We went right off to Stephens Lake Park, where there is an oak tree which has a plaque at its base dedicated to Betsey. That is where we will view the eclipse. The tree overlooks a small lake, and there is a promontory with a pavilion and a bench with a full view both of the sky  and Betsey's tree. Perfect spot. 

After hanging out there, we took a tour of the campus, new construction since we were last here three years ago, the Shay's old house, etc., then came to the Norgaards, our hosts. I've had a 2-hour nap, a shower, and a sandwich. Feeling somewhat restored. Tomorrow we'll go to Betsey's tree early before the eclipse begins. Weather may be good, maybe not. Not sure about crowds either. There are supposedly an additional 250,000 people in town, but they were not in evidence today. 

         Betsey's tree

      The view from the promontory 

          The memorial plaque

We understand that some of Betsey's running friends, the "Running Birches" will be there tomorrow also and we'll get to meet them. 


Here we are at an IHOP restaurant in St. Louis! It's 7am ! Yes, we passed on the motel in Columbus and drove through the night. Ellen & Katie took turns. I never slept. If you don 't sleep, eat - that's the rule. So - a big breakfast. 

       The famous arch in St. Louis

             Closer up


Friday, August 18, 2017

Village Harmony

This past week, Ellen and I went to two Village Harmony concerts, one on Sunday afternoon in Westminster-West, and one Tues eve in Woodstock, VT. They were both great, but the Woodstock one was the greatest. At that one, the three leaders were Carl Linich (Georgian music), Suzanna Park (American folk music) and a woman whose name I don't remember (Ukrainian music ). The singers were all 13-18 year-olds. It was the last concert in a two-week tour and they sounded great. We wished Mimi had been with us for that one. She did come with us to the one on Sunday, and she knew one of the girls (who said she loved the camp), but while it was good, it didn't knock her socks off. We think she would love Village Harmony, but we're not sure she'll ever do it. It is one of the greatest things out there for teens. 

The group with Suzanna Park leading ...

   .....and with Carl Linich

Carl is an American, but lived in the Republic of Georgia for a decade and is a  an official "master" of Georgian music - I.e., he has mastered 500 songs! 

The other thing we did this week was to have John and Cynthia over for supper and a "Slide Fest." I have 15 carousels full of slides, and I want to cull the very best and toss the rest. I thought they could help me decide what is "best." We had fun. Ellen made a nice platter of veggies and we had fresh corn. Yum! 

      Having supper together  .... 

    .... featuring a platter of veggies 

Cleaning out

This past week or so I have been busily emptying out what I have called "the sauna" (because when we built the house 44 years ago, we thought that is what it would become - and it is insulated and wired for an electric sauna stove), but which all these years has been a storeroom. Now we are downsizing and preparing to put our house on the market, and I need to clean out. So I've rented a 5x5 storage unit to use as a staging area, and I am winnowing, organizing, consolidating, jetttisoning, etc. Here is something of a "before and after" --

The sauna as it appeared maybe 4 days ago. By this time I had moved out a whole lot of stuff. When I started, it was so full, you couldn't get in

The sauna now.
Having this cleared out will make it possible to start in on my study, etc. Eventually, I hope to have everything winnowed down to what will go into what we hope will be our new 600 sq. ft. "tiny house" next summer. And the ground floor of our present house will be cleaned out and refurbished and ready to "show."

This will be an ongoing project, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, we are picking up Katie in Brooklyn tomorrow and driving to Columbia, MO to "see" the total eclipse from the vantage point of a tree dedicated to Betsey in a park there. An adventure,  given the uncertainties of weather and traffic. Stay tuned for that too!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Lots going on

Gosh, here it is over a week after my last post! There is a lot happening. Last Friday, I met with a friend who is a consultant to people who are "downsizing," and I am into that big time right now. The basic plan at the moment is that next spring, Paul will come out and build a "tiny house" for us at Putney Commons. This still requires some research to make it a definite thing, but that is the plan we are proceeding on. So I've started clearing out. Monday I rented a 5'x5' storage unit at CubeSmart in Brattleboro, and have started to clear out what we have called "the sauna," which has served for 44 years as a big closet but when we built the house in 1973, it was insulated and wired to be a sauna. It just never was completed and used as one. (We had been living Wisconsin where saunas were very popular at that time). It has been filled to the gills with my"stuff."  I'm organizing, sorting, consolidating, disposing of, storing, etc. Eventually I hope to get the entire ground floor of our house cleared out so I can refurbish it. It's quite a job!

Meanwhile, we spent more time at Marlboro this week, both at rehearsals and at the Wednesday night concert. We fell in love with Mahler's Lieder eines fahrende Gesellen, which we heard rehearsed several times. It is an over-the-top, romantic "sturm und drang" cycle full of passionate intensity. It is performed by a baritone and a small ensemble of strings, winds, piano and percussion. The orchestration absolutely melts your heart. This particular baritone, Theo, has a bit of an edge in his voice, but is capable of moments of great tenderness. That, and Stravinsky's Pulchinella Suite which is being performed by a small orchestra led by Leon Fleischer, were the highlights of the rehearsals, though a Brahms Piano Trio, Opus 87 was right up there too. Wednesday night was a treat too, with Beethoven, Dvorak, and a Brett Dean song cycle on the program (Dean is composer-in-residence at Marlboro this year). 

                        Mahler songs being rehearsed

                        Marlboro orchestra rehearsing Stravinsky

And, we are dealing with a wasp nest on our deck, which we found when we got home from our trip and haven't had the heart to destroy. It is very active with yellow jacket wasps who are coming and going all during the day.  They are pretty much ignoring us for the moment, but it doesn't make for a relaxing time on the deck!

                         Our deck visitors

We've also been planning an eclipse trip with Katie. We had hoped to include John and Cynthia, but John is dealing with the aftermath of Lyme disease and treatment, experiencing a lot of fatigue, and a long road trip just isn't right for him. So it looks like Ellen and I will pick Katie up in Brooklyn next Saturday and we'll drive out to Columbia, MO where she used to live, which is in the path of "totality," and where there is a tree dedicated to Betsey that I have not yet seen. That's where we will gather to watch the eclipse. Katie's friends have offered to host us Sunday night. We have no idea whether the weather will be clear, or whether the traffic will be totally impossible, so it will be an adventure.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Leaving Maine

This morning we packed up to go and then while Ellen did some last-minute blueberry picking with Mary, I went down to the cabin to see KS&B, who were also packing up. I found Brendon on the rocks in front of the cabin, and he gave me a gift - a stone which has worm-like shapes engraved on it which we think could be fossils. We're not sure. Does someone out there know?

                          Brendon on the rocks

                               The intriguing stone

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In Maine

We came over to Owl 's Head, ME Sunday afternoon. Staying with Jim and Mary while Katie, Savanna and Brendon are in a little cottage down on the beach. We have meals together and hang out together. Some things we've done: pick blueberries, watch Red Sox baseball, do the Spelling Bee puzzle, talk, eat. Tonight we had a cookout down by the beach. Halibut, green beans, corn on the cob, blueberry pie. Earlier today, Ellen and I visited the McKeans in Cushing. Their children, Tom and Susanna,  were there with their families too. A lovely visit ! 

                                 Before the cookout.