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  • The mysterious "Cookie Situation" of the Atlantic
    1/14/2020 “People have been asking about the squeaking of the ship,” our captain reported, somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, “but I must tell you, this is nothing to worry about.”
    He then proceeded to explain how a ship needed to give in heavy swells, just as an airplane had to flex during flight. “Otherwise,” he explained cheerfully, “the ship would snap in two!”
    I’m not sure this was the reassurance worried passengers were looking for.
    My husband, Peter, and I are on the second week of our trip across the ocean. The final stop at port has been cancelled due to storms in the Atlantic. This means we will have seven straight days at sea.
  • “Transatlantic Turnaround”
    1/8/2020 My husband, Peter, and I are returning from Spain by boat. The whole idea started when Peter read a book about the sinking of the Lusitania.
    “That sounds like fun!” Peter told me, as he read.
    “Death at sea?” I asked.
    “No, the part before that!” Peter clarified.
    Peter thought the idea of a cross-Atlantic ship sounded fun and romantic. He began investigating transatlantic trips and once Peter starts investigating a thing, it’s as good as done.
  • Sparkles
    12/31/2019 I glanced up as the bells rang to herald new customers walking into the used clothing store. I was looking for a pair of warm dress pants. Visiting my parents in Minnesota, I had forgotten entirely about the possibility of extreme cold and the idea of going out that night in tights and a skirt seemed preposterous.
    Luckily, I found a like-new pair of black jeans with just a little sparkle on the pocket for a good price. I was wandering around the store with these jeans in my hand—just in case I saw something else that I might need—while I waited for the line at the check-out counter to get a little shorter. Maybe I could find a silver jacket, I thought, that would look nice on a cold winter night.
  • The Lost Feather
    12/27/2019 I lost a feather the other day and I understand this does not qualify as news.
    But I want to say—for the record—that this was a really nice feather. I paid good money for it and pinned it to my favorite blue hat. I wore that hat out for a walk, one evening, when it was chilly.
  • 12/17/2019 It is the tender cusp of Christmas.
    It is that time when emotions run close to the overfill point, when sentimentality and anger and depression and euphoria mix freely together, with not enough space between them to tell the difference from one moment to the next. 
    I am visiting my parents—and of course this does not help. 
    My parents are doing well (thank you for asking). They are in their eighties now, still living in their dream cabin in the woods and, although I know they are growing older, the signs are so incremental and their attitude so upbeat, it is easy to deny the passage of time when I am with them and imagine I am a much younger person than I actually am. 
    Yesterday, we stopped at the local greenhouse in the small town near their cabin. It was unbelievably cold. I don’t know why I couldn’t believe it; I grew up in the cold and was raised with the idea that extreme cold was a signpost of Christmas and a litmus test for true Christmas spirit. But the truth is, I haven’t lived in a very cold place for a while and the cold stole the breath out of me. 
  • 12/3/2019 My husband, Peter, and I have settled into the little house we are calling home for a month in southern Spain. The house is old and quirky—but I’ve come to believe that all homes are quirky in their own way.
    Whenever I spend time in another person’s home, I realize there are a lot of different ways of doing things that would never have occurred to me. 
    When I was young, my family would drive to visit my great-grandmother. She had a neighbor named Mrs. Johnson (I never learned her first name). Mrs. Johnson had a pug and when I uncurled the pug’s tail, he caught sight of it and chased it until he was exhausted. This was endlessly entertaining as an eight-year-old. But my other vivid memory of visiting Mrs. Johnson was the way she ate pears. Mrs. Johnson took the pear and banged it on the table—side to side and top to bottom—until the whole pear was soft. 
    “Why are you doing that?” I asked. 
  • 11/22/2019 When my husband, Peter, and I met, we each had a dog. 
    Peter had a collie named “The Pretty Boy,” (Yes, “The” was part of his name) and I had a pound puppy, part golden retriever, part border collie mix named “Milo.” The Pretty Boy died shortly before we were married, about five years ago, and Milo died just over a year ago. 
    We talk about getting a new dog, of course, but all the good reasons not to have a dog prevail. Extended travel—actually travel of any kind—is enormously complicated with a dog. So, for a year now, Peter and I have stuck to our guns and only for a moment here and there been seriously tempted. But this doesn’t mean we have stopped loving dogs. 
    I see dogs every day and I no longer even hesitate to interrupt some poor person’s walk to talk to their dog. I talk to the dog and the dog lets me know if it is shy or finds me a little tedious or would prefer to keep walking or, in some cases, is really excited to meet me. 
    Being less focused on my own dog and more aware of other dogs has given me a new appreciation for all the breeds of dogs I never noticed before. In the great universe of dogs, I no longer play favorites. And I think this is a good thing because, the more dogs I meet, the less difference I see between dogs and people. 
  • 11/14/2019 Peter and I are packing for our annual trip again. 
    My husband, Peter, is retired and I write, so we are able to travel now. Getting married late in life, this might have posed some problems because Peter is exactly the opposite sort of traveler I used to be.
    “I’m packing two separate bags—one for Spain and one for on the way there,” Peter informs me. “This will mean some duplication, but it will simplify things when it’s time to fly!” Peter is obviously pleased with himself. 
    I used to take pride in traveling light. I fit all my clothes and everything I needed in a small backpack or a carry-on suitcase and hit the road with little idea of where I was going. This was a lot of fun and I had some fine adventures. Then I met Peter. 
    “Should we bring the paella pan?” Peter asks. We bought the pan in Spain. We are going to Spain.
    “I think they’ll probably have one,” I say, knowing that (if they do not) Peter will insist on adding a paella pan to the list of things we bring overseas every year.
  • 10/30/2019 My parents live in a cabin deep in the north woods. I know this sounds like the start of a fairytale. Sometimes it seems a bit like one.
    There are bear in the woods. Deer run in herds. The seasons are far more pronounced and extreme than those I am used to. After a day of glorious autumn sunshine on my bare arms, I woke in the middle of the night and saw, in the moonlight, that snow had covered the ground, turning the green grass white.
  • 10/23/2019 Peter was up before anyone else—as he often is. 
    My husband, Peter, gets up early in order to have enough time to brood before busybodies like me expect him to engage in cheerful conversation. But this morning we were staying at my parents’ cabin and there was a glitch in the plans. The coffee jar was empty. 
    Obviously, a person can’t brood without coffee. Peter quietly opened one cupboard after another. No coffee. My parents are great planners so there was no chance they were out of coffee, but where they might be keeping it—that was another issue. 
    Peter stealthily crept around the kitchen opening one cupboard after another until finally, far in the back of an upper cupboard, Peter found a bag of coffee.
    “Bingo!” Peter said (silently, of course.)
    Peter put coffee in the coffeemaker, pressed the “start” button and only then did he take a good look at the bag. 
    “DECAF” it read. “Oh no!” Peter thought. The coffee was already brewing, my parents would be up any moment. 
    There are a number of things a person might have said at this moment. 
123
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Sunday, January 19, 2020

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