Oil and ashes

The southern point of Cozumel

I really love writing, and I love writing this blog. I have watched it fade over the last few years with chagrin. There was a time that I wrote many times a day – back in the Livejournal days of my youth. Then at least once a day. Then at least twice a week. Once a week. Once every two weeks is more or less my current schedule. There are many causes. Sometimes I think the longer form I employ on this blog is a mistake, since it calls me to be more thoughtful and write better. I am tired of my own autobiographical story: I went somewhere. I did something. The kitchen is dirty. The children are joyful. My friends fill my life with adventures. I prefer my own writing about thoughts – about the noticing of the world. I like the way my eyes work when I gaze at life on your behalf.


Today is Ash Wednesday. I sit in my high attic – the elevation makes the stars brighter and dims the noise of the city downstairs. Through these higher, unsullied windows I watch snowflakes like tourists lost in back allies change their minds in their dance between roofs. I’m listening to Russian Orthodox liturgical music, which captures Lent very well for me. I do not recognize the words, but the vast number of voices – so low and so high – sound very sincere, and as though they really know the darkness of Lent. The older I get, the more I love Lent. Maybe more than Christmas, or Advent, or even Easter. Many of the meaningful parts of the Christian calendar have been co-opted by culture. I love Christmas, but not as a Christian. I love it as a child reborn. I turn to Lent and to Pentecost for the depth of contemplation and the spirit of fire I need to bring even a hint of Christ into my secular life.


I was very diligent in getting and organizing my pictures from Cozumel. I did that the first day I was back. I was less diligent in sharing them with you. Probably because I intended to write a novella on the topic of Cozumel, but what somehow aware that would be uninteresting.

The pictures are here.

The summary is this: Such epic vacations carry with them a hope and expectation out of line with the fact that fallible humans will undertake them. I went to Cozumel primed for it to be imperfect, especially with children. I was gallantly rewarded with behavior better than I thought my children capable of, relaxation, love, laughter, snorkeling, adventures and joy. It more perfect than such things can be expected to be.

There was a moment when I went snorkeling with Grey. He asked me to hold his hand as we went out, and fighting against the hard current, I held it tight. Unsure of his courage in deep waters, we went further and further out – more aquatic wonders opening to our eyes – until we hovered above a sunken wreck. There I was with hot sun on my back, small courageous hand in mine and flocks of brilliantly colored fish swimming in uncannily perfect formations through untread stairways. And for a moment, my life was perfect.


How are you doing? Do you lament over the longness of the winter? Do you look forward to the quietness of Lent? Have you had a perfect moment? Do you miss me?

The Eastern coast

Nemo Finale

Looking down our street
Looking down our street

This morning we woke up (late) to a bright, sunshiny, monochromatic world. And a house with no heat. But the bright sunshiny world and temperatures in the upper 30s made today a much better day to have the furnace on the fritz than any other day of the storm. We’re actually not sure what the issue is – the furnace spontaneously began working again about 15 minutes prior to the arrival of the furnace guy. But all this was minimally inconvenient – the sunlight streaming in kept some rooms warmer than the furnace does!

Adam stands on the drifts on the house-side of the driveway
Adam stands on the drifts on the house-side of the driveway

So where did Nemo leave us? According to the National Weather Service, our friend dropped 22 inches of dry powerdy snow on Stoneham. 65 mile an hour winds sculpted those inches in to massive drifts and clear-swept sections – an inequal distribution that was exacerbated by the labors of homeowners with shovels, the suddenly popular owners of snow-blowers and the profiteering-but-slightly-lazy shovel wielding teens.

I thought, as I luxuriated in bed this morning (the covers being even more enticing when there is no heat in the room) that today would be a nice, quiet, peaceful day. We were snowed in enough to intimidate us from making the 20 mile trip to church. But then the furnace happened. Once that was resolved, I had to go grocery shopping. That was epic. The produce section of the store looked as though locusts had descended upon it. I’m guessing that bit didn’t get restocked. Either that, or everyone else in Stoneham also found a pressing need for bananas. This was even more epic because, starting on Ash Wednesday after service, I’m going to join my husband in attempting a Slow Carb Diet. I’m rather unconvinced of my ability to stick to this. Cutting out carbs and dairy is like, um, cutting out bread and milk from my diet. So while at Stop & Shop, I attempted to find slow-carb-compliant foods so I can at least make it a single week. We shall see.

Post Nemo: Locusts attacked
Post Nemo: Locusts attacked

And then more shoveling. Hours of effort yesterday + a borrowed snow blower + a pair of neighborhood teens got the first car unburied and the second car half unburied. Another 2+ hours of snowblower + shoveling and we can use our entire driveway again. These are things you don’t think about in October when you buy a house: where are you going to put the snow for your driveway? When it’s nearly two natural feet plus massive drifts, this becomes non-trivial. Two years ago, I had to walk each shovel full across the street. Fortunately, the next 7 days have highs above freezing, so we should lose a lot of the snowmass. As it is, it’s very difficult to turn corners driving due to lost visibility with the drifts.

If I had to rate this blizzard, I would give it an A for the following reasons:
1) Life time memory: the “boys” spending hours sledding down our street, followed by pancakes at midnight. These are the times you remember in your nursing home.
2) Actual vs. predicted snow: absolutely on target. This snow storm came precisely as billed
3) Loss of life: while there were a few tragic losses, there were fewer than usually accompany weather like this. Partially this is due to the precautions (draconic as they were) taken by our elected officials to shut everything down for an extended period of time.
4) Fellowship: I spent so much wonderful time this weekend with my neighbors and friends – all a stone’s throw from the house – that it was a joy. We played, ate, shoveled, laughed, watched movies, and enjoyed our time together. This is one of life’s great blessings.
5) Inconvenience: we kept power and only lost heat after it was no longer critically needed. It was a liberating inconvenience for us.

So Nemo: would recommend and do it again!

I give persective to the wall-side drifts. A "Before" picture would have shown the tips of the wipers as the only visible parts of the cars. (Due to drifting)
I give persective to the wall-side drifts. A “Before” picture would have shown the tips of the wipers as the only visible parts of the cars. (Due to drifting)