bike ride

Jul. 4th, 2018 02:46 pm
asakiyume: (glowing grass)
Went on a bike ride with Waka in the sensual hot 'n' humid, where you really feel each patch of shade, like you're diving into cold water, and then into the heat again, and in all these places, so many smells--the smell of baking soil, of flowers and black raspberries and pine needles, also the smell of creosote by the train tracks, and the smell of swampy still water, and here and there the smell of garbage cooking in the sun.

We passed a father having a picnic with his daughter out the shaded door to their ground-floor apartment. There was a blanket: dad was sitting on this, very still--I thought he was meditating at first--and there were many small bowls of things to eat. On the threshold of the door was the daughter, three or four, with wild curly reddish brown hair, not quite ready maybe to be lured out.

This dramatic wildflower turns out to be butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). How pretty!

butterfly weed

And on the trip, there was some underpass art...

underpass on Northampton MA bike trail
underpass on Northampton MA bike trail
underpass on Northampton MA bike trail

The other side was a celebration of bees and beekeeping:

underpass on Northampton MA bike trail

Also on the ride, a trailside water tap, where you could get a drink of water, and air pump, in case your tires were low, courtesy of a car dealer; also a scrapyard with the cars almost lost in wildflowers and tall grass.

Song sparrows, catbirds, and swifts were all singing out. At the place we stopped to buy a drink and a bite to eat, the woman behind the counter had a tattoo of utility polls and the swooping wires strung between them, with birds on them.
asakiyume: (turnip lantern)
I took my car to the mechanic's yesterday, all dressed in my running gear, because I planned to run a back route back to my house. The mechanic's dad drove up just as I was about to set off and offered me a ride home--he's such a gent; he's given me a ride home in the past. I told him no, this time I was going to get my exercise, but we chatted for a few minutes anyway. The mechanic is about my age (maybe slightly younger... everyone who is about my age is actually slightly younger), and his dad is about my dad's age--with many fewer teeth but more high spirits.

I love the dad--I love talking to him about his past in this town, when it was really a tiny rural farming community. I told him I'd seen a community TV interview with him about going to the one-room schoolhouse they used to have in town. "Oh yeah," he said. "No heat, no running water. Just a wood stove. If you were bad, you had to split the wood for it, so guess who had to split a lot of wood?"

He told me one time he put another kid's boot into the fire! ... Pranks are different when you have a wood stove in the mix!

I was thinking about how different his school experience was from my dad's. My dad went to school in Lexington, Massachusetts. Running water, heat in winter, no splitting wood, no outhouses. Same state, different worlds.
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
I was at an informational event on sanctuary cities and the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act this afternoon, and before it started, I was chatting with Cliff McCarthy, a wonderful local historian (I've shared one of his other stories in the past--a tale of poverty, murder, and arson). This time he told me the extremely dramatic story of Angeline Palmer, a free child of color "hired out" by the town of Amherst (Angeline was an orphan and ward of the town) to work for the Shaw family in Belchertown in the late 1830s. "Right in that house over there," Cliff said, pointing out the window to the house next door to where our event was happening.

You can read the full story at Freedom Stories of the Pioneer Valley, Cliff's history website, but here is the outline--and some highlights. Mason Shaw, known as "Squire Shaw," had gotten swept up in western Massachusetts' "mulberry craze"--he was investing in mulberry trees, with the hopes of making a fortune in the silk industry. He was also trying to *sell* mulberry trees--in 1840, he traveled to Georgia to try to interest farmers there in buying them. While there, he sent a letter to his wife, telling her to bring twelve-year-old Angeline south, where Shaw reckoned he could sell her for $600.

will Angeline be sold into slavery?? )

The story was so dramatic, so empowering, and--at least briefly--had a happy ending. There are no pictures of Angeline! I wish there were--as it is, we'll just have to imagine her. Visit Cliff's page on Angeline to see a sketch of Henry Jackson and a photo of the house from which Angeline was rescued.





asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)






Yesterday afternoon this dramatic sky was up above the Aquavitae portion of what's known as the Great Meadow of Hadley, Massachusetts.



I had always wanted to go down Aqua Vitae road--I remember when last the Connecticut River rose and flooded it. Some of the houses down there are on stilts (wise move).

While I was there, I noticed the narrow fields. You can see them clearly in this satellite shot, courtesy of Google maps:



The whole Great Meadow is laid out that way--a style of farming known as open meadow farming. It was common in eastern England in the 1600s, and the earliest settlers in New England brought it with them, but by and large it disappeared as a land-use pattern in the 1700s. But it survived in Hadley--in 2007, 136 parcels of land in the Great Meadow were farmed or maintained by 87 owners.1


(Image from Patricia Laurice Ellsworth, Hadley West Street Common and Great Meadow: A Cultural Landscape Study, 2007.)

Just think: 350-plus years, these fields have been tilled. Can you see the different colors of the ground? Those are the different fields.



Back in the earliest days, the Aquavitae area was planted in hay, and other parts of the Great Meadow were planted in wheat, oats, rye, and corn, as well as peas and barley. As you can see from the cut stalks, corn is still grown there. Tobacco, a crop that caught on in the area in the 1800s, is still grown there, too.

These horses haven't been here anywhere near as long. See the Connecticut River behind them? The horses were frisking with each other until I came up.



1Patricia Laurice Ellsworth, Hadley West Street Common and Great Meadow: A Cultural Landscape Study, 2007, p. 10.


asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
I've started volunteering--just a little bit--helping high school kids with essay writing, both at my town's high school and in a troubled school district nearby. The kids at my local high school are relatively privileged (but still so various--one told me about moving from Maine, another about his Soundcloud page, another about being the child of Indian immigrants), the other are in a program for kids struggling to graduate for one reason or another.

That second bunch of kids--I love them so much already. They've picked some excellent research topics. One wanted to write about how miscarriages affect fathers (his girlfriend had a miscarriage). Another wanted to write about school lunches. Another, with Tourettes, wanted to write about Tourettes. Another wanted to write about the effect of cellphones and other electronics on kids in elementary school.

I want these kids to have the same chances that the kids at my local school have. They have so much good stuff to share with the world.

Here's the mighty Connecticut River. Just across it, over there, is where those kids go to school. See the water spurting and pluming through the dam? The city generates electricity from that.



Here are geese in the shoals.



And here's the view further down the river--well, two weekends ago. Most leaves have fallen now.

>

Here is graffiti under a bridge that crosses the river. Do you see the "RIP" on a piece of wood in the foreground? The dates were 1993 to 2016. My younger daughter's age.



Wake up, this graffito tells us. Are you sufficiently awake?




asakiyume: (bluebird)
When I left the possums with the woman at Medicine Mammals, she invited me to come to the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival, on the banks of the Connecticut River in Turners Falls--an old mill town where once I heard Anaïs Mitchell perform. Yesterday, [livejournal.com profile] wakanomori and I went, and it turned out to be a wonderful time, full of connections, synchronicity, and good news about the possums.



We happened to arrive at exactly the moment that the Akwesasne Women Singers, featuring Bear Fox, were singing songs in Kanienkaha, the language known in English as Mohawk. Bear Fox appears in the film about the Akwesasne Freedom School, a Kanienkaha language-emersion school, that I've written about here. She's also a major force in the documentary Skydancer about Mohawk (Kanienkaha:ka) iron workers. And I got to see her perform! Here are 40 second of that performance:



Later on we went to buy a CD, and I was able to tell her how great I thought both documentaries had been. (The CD I chose was this one. "That's the best one," one of the other women told me."My fingers must have known instinctively," I said.)

Further along, we found Medicine Mammals.





I asked Loril, the rehabilitator, how the possums were doing. "They're doing great," she said. "The two you brought in, plus the other three--they're all together now in a flannel pouch." She said she and her group were about to do some drumming for a woman who was going to perform a hoop dance, so we stayed for that.

Near the end of her performance, the dancer passed the hoops to kids and led them in a weaving dance, then asked them to pass the hoops on to others. Meanwhile the singers modified their chant: "Teeeenage Ninja Muuuutant Turtles . . . They are powerfulllll," and so on. It was very fun.

After we left, we went for a stroll by the shores of the river at a point where its waters were mainly being diverted.





The area was girdled round with danger signs, warning that the water level could rise suddenly, and indeed, above our head, the full power of the river was being diverted away to generate electricity. Photos are inadequate for capturing the roiling, whirlpooling, bubbling, turbulent--how many more adjectives can I add??--power of the river in the narrow(er) channel. We walked over a railway bridge above it and got dizzy looking at it.

Last but not least, in the parking lot I collected data for a new Tumblr: Prius bumper stickers (by which I mean, bumper stickers on Priuses, not bumper stickers featuring Priuses). At least in this neck of the woods, they definitely have themes in common... If you happen to see any good ones, send me a picture, and I'll upload it--crediting you in a form you desire!


asakiyume: (bluebird)
On Monday, I was out for a morning run, not very far from home, when I came upon a possum that had been hit by a car. I was passing it, when I heard a wheezing, hissing, chirping sort of noise, and saw a little, blind, baby possum, with just a shadow of gray fuzz on its body, struggling by the side of the road. It had either been thrown there or had somehow managed to creep its way over. And then I saw that there was another, a little way off.

Those babies were in a desperate state, and trying so hard to stay alive.

So, I ran back home and came back in a car with a box. I picked up the two babies, looked for others, but didn't see any others that were alive. At home I wrapped a hot water bottle in a towel while [livejournal.com profile] wakanomori looked for wildlife rehabilitators that we could call. ([livejournal.com profile] yamamanama, you can bet I was thinking of you, but the place you volunteer at would be like two hours away, so I figured I'd try something closer.) Meanwhile those little babies were cheeping and wheezing away.

For those of you in Massachusetts, this page offers regional pages you can check out for this purpose. (For those of you not in Massachusetts, your state may have similar, or you can simply search on "wildlife rehabilitator.") Waka printed out the page for the Pioneer Valley, and I started calling.

It was still pretty early in the morning and no one was picking up. I left several messages, and at last got one woman, a vet, but she said that baby possums were difficult because they required tube feeding, and that she couldn't do it because she was traveling. She urged me to keep trying other numbers. At last I reached Medicine Mammals. The woman there told me she had a different method for feeding baby possums (involving a toothbrush--I guess they suck the bristles), and that she would take them.

She lives at the end of a dirt road, and the scene behind her house reminded me of Medwyn's Valley, for those of you who've read Taran Wanderer. When I opened the box to show her the possums, we saw that the two babies had made their way next to each other and were snuggled together.

After I turned them over to her and made a donation for her work, she invited me to come to the Pocumtuck Homelands Festival. "We'll have our tipi up and there'll be storytelling," she said. I was thinking, tipi?? The Native Americans in this area never made tipis. But it turns out she's Apache, so that explains it.

When I got home, I got a call from my town's Animal Control Officer. "Did you rescue some baby possums from George Hannum Road?" she asked. "Yes," I said, flabbergasted, because I hadn't called her, so how could she know? "Well, we removed the mother and there were other babies alive in her pouch, and I was wondering if you'd found a rehabilitator?" She must have been calling the same people I'd been calling, and they must have said that someone else from B-town was also calling about baby possums.

So I was able to tell her about Medicine Mammals, so maybe more of those sibling possums will make it.


asakiyume: (bluebird)







Marilyn Monroe, the Tattooed Lady
Just over the border at the south end of town is a tattoo parlor with some great associated art, including a series of circus-poster-style portraits of various random famous people that the artist must admire. Here is Marilyn Monroe as a tattooed lady--she has JFK on her left shoulder and the legend "Enter if you dare" on the ribbon underneath her.



The artist also painted this much-tattooed guy menacing the van beside the shop:

Milltown Ink, side wall

A Bell and Its Stories

Very close to the tattoo parlor is a small park with this bell at its center. It's all that is left of a grammar school that once stood there. [livejournal.com profile] wakanomori did some Internet research and discovered that the school was built in 1891 (to replace a school built in 1828), was in use until 1991, and burned down in 1994. (Great photos of the school at this site.)

The bell apparently went missing in the 1960s, only to be found in 1974 ... in the bell tower. Surely more to that story there than meets the eye . . .


Even its origin story is interesting: it was made in 1877 by one of two competing bell foundries, both called Meneely Bell Foundry, located in what's now Watervliet, New York. You can make out part of the word "Meneely" in this close-up:



Mailboxes
Meanwhile, closer to home: these mailboxes. Are they waiting in line for something? Or are they part of a parade that's temporarily stopped while a band performs for the judges? Or are they just loitering? They had better watch out, if so. I'm told the police take notice.

procession of mailboxes


asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
The guys who oversee the town transfer station (aka the town dump, but some stuff does get transferred for recycling) keep warm in a tiny room attached to the big pit where the nonrecyclable trash gets tossed. You go in there to buy town trash bags or to renew the sticker for your car that lets you go there. Inside, a TV is often on, and, at this time of year, there's a three-bar heater running.

There are two guys there: one is in his sixties and the other is in his thirties. I was renewing my car sticker, which meant showing my registration. "Oh, you live in Drowned Woods.1 I always get lost driving there," the young guy says. "You know," says the older guy, "I used to go hunting up there, before it was developed. I knew every twist and turn, every stone and tree. But not now."

And then we got to talking, and he told some awesome stories about the town, 50 years ago. When he was little, a grand house that's now down the hill from the town common was right on the common. (It was bought for a dollar and moved to its present location in two halves, for $30,000. Now it's apartments.)

the two-headed calf )

He went on to speculate that they must have belonged to the women's now-deceased husbands or sons. Sure, that's what it must have been ;-)

I asked him about a building that's falling down by the railroad tracks where I used to tap maple trees.

a blacksmith )

Getting to hear town history from an old-timer is so wonderful.

1Not its real name. The development is named after one of the drowned Quabbin towns.


asakiyume: (snow bunting)






So here is the bright red mill building--Aldrich Mill--which we passed on our way to the dino tracks place last weekend.

Aldrich Mill

Look at its lovely foundations. . .

DSCN5899

And the Batchelor Brook, streaming away beside it

Aldrich Mill and river

The earliest mill on this site was used as a distillery, but this mill was built in 1836 to manufacture woolen goods. The Aldrich family acquired an interest in it in the 1840s, and from 1860 on, it was solely theirs. During the Civil War, it manufactured wool blankets. In 1870, it became a grist mill, and in 1913 a blacksmith shop. (Sources for these facts are here. and here. Mr. Nash told us some of them, but I refreshed my memory by searching online.)

Why did the mill have a bell? Maybe for calling people to work?

Aldrich Mill

Bell on Aldrich Mill

In the 1940s, a water wheel was added, but never used. The water wheel isn't on anymore--at least, we couldn't see evidence of it--but here's a picture of what it looked like.

It's still owned by the Aldrich family, according to Mr. Nash.


asakiyume: (miroku)
My neck of the woods turns out to be one of the best places in the United States to see dinosaur footprints. Not bones, but footprints. Who knew?! But it's true. I've known for years that there was a rather idiosyncratic, privately run place nearby ("Nash Dinosaur Tracks") where one can see dinosaur tracks, but I'd never been. But this weekend, [livejournal.com profile] wakanomori and I went there, and it was fabulous.

The back entrance to Nash Dinosaur Tracks, which was the way we ended up entering
back entrance

plaque


Kornell Nash, the current curator, is the son of Carlton Nash, who bought the site in 1939 and ran it until his death in 1997. He told us that a farm boy with the magnificent name of Pliny Moody found the first dinosaur tracks in 1802. He brought them home for a doorstep to his family home,1 and then when he went off to school, he sold them to a doctor, Elihu Dwight, who told the neighborhood children that they were the tracks left by Noah's raven when he was sent out to look for land after the flood (Noah's raven must have been much larger than the ravens we have nowadays... an antediluvian raven).

Mr. Nash, telling us the story of Pliny Moody, Elihu Dwight, and Noah's raven
Mr. Kornell Nash

The footprints of Noah's raven (source)


Dinosaur tracks on display
dinosaur tracks

Mr. Nash's father grew up near the Moody homestead and was fascinated with dinosaurs. In 1933, a year out of high school, he discovered some tracks while prospecting. In 1939, he bought the land he'd found them on. After we talked for a while longer, Mr. Nash let us wander out in the quarry area where to this day he cuts out tracks--and not only tracks: also fossilized fish and wood.

In the quarry
exploring the quarry

A track in situ
track still in the quary

This painting, at the front of the establishment, was painted by an enterprising Hampshire College student who came calling, asking if she could do some painting for him. The website has a page devoted to past signs and paintings here--they're quite fun.

dilophosaurus

(There are more photos from our visit here.)

Mr. Nash also knew lots about local history, including about a beautiful mill building we had passed on our way over--but I'll save pictures of that for a separate entry.

1Paving your walk with dinosaur tracks was apparently all the rage for a while. Wistariahurst, a stately home in Holyoke that was built by the Skinner family, who were silk and satin manufacturers, paved their driveway with them:

Photo by Bill DeGiulio (source)
asakiyume: (glowing grass)






There are many farmers of Polish heritage in the area. Sapowsky Farms is within biking distance and on my way home on volunteering days.



Here is bad news--and good news--concerning asparagus:



And for something completely different, here is a tree that grows dust masks. They look like single-breast bras, don't they? People who want to do some illegal exploration in the abandoned building (and others like it) seen in the background can harvest a mask, so as not to breath in asbestos.



And my music for today is "Carmelita," by Warren Zevon. It's a song I'd never heard before yesterday, when I was waiting for a long freight train to go by. On one car was scrawled

Carmelita hold me tighter I think I'm going down

It sounded like it came from something, and when I looked, I found it was a (slightly misquoted) line from "Carmelita":

Carmelita hold me tighter
I think I'm sinking down
And I'm all strung out on heroin
on the outskirts of town


I wonder if the person who wrote it really was all strung out on heroin. Since my area's currently in a heroin epidemic, it seems possible. Then again, the freight train could have come from somewhere far away.





asakiyume: (glowing grass)







Behind this grand old mill building is the Mill River, which [livejournal.com profile] teenybuffalo took me to several years ago.



Little Springtime, the healing angel, and I went down to the very spot she had shown me (and, actually, the healing angel was along on that trip too), but really what we wanted to get to was a sandy island a bit upstream. The problem was that there was a waterfall between us and upriver at this point.

The healing angel hopped quite nimbly across the river and signaled to us, after a time, that we would find a place to scramble down on our side if we walked back along the highway a bit.

We walked back up the highway, and sure enough, did find a place to scramble down to the water.

Here is the healing angel, already on the island we want to get to.


a few more photos )
asakiyume: (man on wire)
Train tracks run behind my neighborhood, where I walk. I often see trains go by: long New England Central Railroad freight trains and the Amtrak passenger train--the Vermonter.

On Christmas I learned that in January, the route of the Vermonter will change--it will no longer travel the length of track near my house. We've often talked of riding it, but our chance was fast disappearing, so on Saturday, December 27, [livejournal.com profile] wakanomori and I bought tickets to ride from Springfield, Massachusetts, to Amherst. Here are some photos of that journey (to see more in the series, or to see any of the pictures bigger, click through to Flickr):

In Springfield, waiting

Springfield MA View of a train at Springfield MA

Long evening light off the old mill buildings

Buildings in evening light, Springfield MA

mural on old building, Springfield MA

a river and a railroad crossing )

ridiculously blurry photos of my haunts )

And here is a picture of the setting sun that Amtrak liked so much it asked to use it--I said yes.

passenger silhouetted against train window

And here we are in Amherst. I heard other people talking about how this was near to the last journey. Others were also commemorating it, as you can see.

Amherst Amtrak station, to be decommissioned others also commemorated the journey

Then we drove home in the deepening sunset

DSCN5300


asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
I had to return a completed job by post this morning. While I was filling out a form, the door opened and there was an amazing sound of CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP emanating from a cardboard box, marked "live chicks" and with sides punctuated with air holes and with hay sticking out from those holes.

"The beats are the heart of the party," the person carrying this box was saying into his bluetooth. He set the box down on the counter and left.

CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP! said those live chicks.

"Ed's called twice already, wondering where his chicks are," said J.

"Well, you can tell him they've arrived," said T.

I asked about chick delivery, and T told me that they have go overnight. Those chicks came from Iowa.

. . . Did you know that East Timor has no government-run, nationwide postal system?

They have internet and wifi. The East Timor Action Network just today reported that Timor Telecom is offering computers to schools and universities in Timor-Leste (East Timor), "to contribute to the digital inclusion of students and create a new approach to teaching." But if I want to get a computer to someone in Timor-Leste--say someone in the town of Ainaro--I either have to bring it myself or give it to someone who's going over, who then has to hand deliver it or entrust it to someone to deliver. If I make friends with anyone in Ainaro while I'm over there, I can send them emails or phone them, but I can't send them a letter, not directly to their home.

My contact tells me that within the town of Ainaro there's mail delivery that's carried out by the district administration, and maybe the same thing happens in other districts, and in the capital of Dili. But if you're in Dili and you want to get something to Ainaro, you have to arrange something with a bus driver or someone else who will play courier.

This is one way (one of many ways) in which Timor-Leste is different from the fictional nation of W-- in my Pen Pal novel. W-- has a postal service.


asakiyume: (bluebird)
Remember the houses made of Emily Dickinson's words? Well, it seems I will be able to interview their creator, so watch this space!

Meanwhile, I was back at his website, and I found a list of all the quotes. Wonderful treasure. With rearranging they could make a renga...


  • Morning without you is a dwindled dawn

  • Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door

  • The soul should always stand ajar

  • One need not be a chamber to be haunted


There are some surprising quotes that must come from letters rather than poems. I liked these:


  • I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven.

  • Dogs are better than human beings because they know but do not tell.

This one on death makes it sound like an adventure:


Dying is a wild night and a new road.

Then too, there are aphorisms for writers and other creative types:


  • The Possible’s slow fuse is lit by the imagination.

  • Luck is not chance, it's toil; fortune's expensive smile is earned.

  • Finite to fail, but infinite to venture.

And this I loved:


Whenever a thing is done for the first time, it releases a little demon.




asakiyume: (snow bunting)
I'm very slowly making my way through King Spruce, the 1908 novel that I found by the side of the road. Among other things, it very earnestly teaches the reader about the state of the logging and timber industry in Maine at the turn of the century, and among the details are mention of clans of ne'er-do-wells--portrayed the way gypsies or hillbilly moonshiners might be portrayed, if the setting were elsewhere--who squat on the land and are periodically forcibly resettled by the lumber barons. The lumber barons hate these folks because of their habit of setting fires to encourage blueberry bushes to produce:
There she lays before you, ten thousand acres like a tinder-box in this weather, dry since middle August. You've seen some of the slash. But you've seen only a little of it. Under those trees as far as eye can see there's the slash of tree cuttin's. Tops propped on their boughs like wood in a fireplace. Draught like a furnace! ... And about all those dod-fired Diggers down there know or care about property interests is that a burn makes blueberries grow, and blueberries are worth six cents a quart! They have done it in other places. They're inbred till they've got water for blood and sponges for brains. When the hankerin' for blueberries catches 'em they'll put the torch to that undergrowth and refuse, and if the wind helps and the rain don't stop it they'll set a fire that will run to Pogey Notch like racin' hosses.
--Holman Day King Spruce (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1908), page 86

Fascinating for the power dynamic and the competing interests.

And I've also been listening to some of Jean Ritchie's folksongs, and came across this gem, "Lazy John"

Lazy John, Lazy John
Will you marry me?

How can I marry you?
No hat to wear


Up she jumped and away she ran
Down to the market square
There she found a hat
For Lazy John to wear...

He continues to raise sartorially related objections: namely, he has no shirt, no trousers, no socks, and no shoes, and our lovestruck young woman, who enjoys a trip to the market square as much as the next person and can't, apparently, see the pattern being established (else she could forestall the socks and shoes by getting them when she picked up the trousers), goes and buys him each thing.

Finally she asks,

Lazy John, Lazy John
Will you marry me?

To which he replies--with surely heartfelt sadness....

How can I marry you
With a wife and ten children at home?


I suspect he's off to light the mountainside next, so he can set his ten children to picking blueberries come spring.


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