Boiler House Poets’ second reunion begins

Whilst I have been busy with grandbaby ABC and my parents and the fall activity start-up schedule, I have also been preparing for the second reunion of the Boiler House Poets at the Assets for Artists residency program at MASS MoCA in North Adams MA. You can read about our first residency as the initial group of poets in the partnership between Tupelo Press and MASS MoCA in my archives for November 2015 and our first reunion in early October of 2016.

I should probably rephrase that. I should have been preparing, but I was too distracted with everything else going on, so I threw things together last night and this morning, complicated by my printer still thinking it is British rather than American and not being able to cope with printing on 8.5×11 inch paper.

Even though my older sister has arrived to help my parents and B is back from his business trip to help E care for ABC, it was very difficult to leave, but fortified by hugs and kisses from E and a last snuggle with ABC, I set off for the 200-mile drive back to North Adams.

I grew up near North Adams and went to high school there, so it does feel like coming home when I visit, yet, so much has changed that it feels like there are discoveries to be made, too. I am looking forward to visiting the expansion of MASS MoCA that has opened since our last reunion. And there is no shortage of work to be done.

Today, though, was about re-establishing bonds with the other poets and greeting a new member, as well as a visual artist who is also participating in a residency this week. We had a lovely welcome dinner together at Grazie, which is just below our apartments. We talked and talked and ate and talked and had gelato and talked some more, catching up on what has happened over the last year and laying the groundwork for our time together this year.

Stay tuned…

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Bolt update

Because we have recently completed National Drive Electric Week, I thought I would update you on our experiences with our 2017 Chevy Bolt.

We still love it!

I wish I could have shown it off at our local Drive Electric event, but it did not fit into our schedule.

Over these last six months, we have learned a lot about electric driving. Air temperature has a big effect on range. When the weather was warm this summer, our projected range with a full charge was 280-300 miles (450-482 km) rather than the listed 238 (383 km). During the winter, though, our range may only be in the 160s.

The type of driving also has a big impact on the range. Unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, electric vehicles are more efficient in stop-and-go driving because the energy from slowing, braking, and travelling downslope is used to send charge back to the battery. Yesterday, I drove almost fifteen miles while only having my projected range decrease by two miles because I was driving around town.

The Bolt has a screen that shows how various factors affect mileage in real time. It is a bit of a game to see how much different routes, speeds, etc. affect our kilowatt per mile ratio. In a mixed highway/city session, we get about 4.8 m/kwh, while on an exclusively in-town run, we average about 6 m/kwh. This is much cheaper than running a car on gasoline, especially because maintenance costs on EVs are also much lower. It is even cheaper for us because most of our electricity comes from our solar panels, rather than being purchased from a utility.

My favorite driving mode is L mode, which allows most driving to happen with just the accelerator pedal. It reminds me of using the swell pedal on the organ! L mode makes greater use of regenerative braking without needing to touch the brake pedal, which brings in the use of the disc brakes.

The only real problem we have had is that one of our forward cameras stopped functioning, which meant that we were without pedestrian detection and other safety features for a while as our dealer had to order the parts needed. This wasn’t too great a hardship, given that we had never had these kinds of features on prior cars so we were used to driving without them. Still, it was nice to have them back after the repair.

While we had planned to install a home charging station, we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Given that we usually keep the Bolt within the county and that we have an upgraded home electrical service, it hasn’t been a problem charging slowly with our regular household current, but we will eventually get a home charging station so that we can do a full battery charge overnight. We plan to get a station that plugs into a 220 outlet rather than one that is hardwired.

We are also slowly getting more public charging stations. In August, shortly before L had to return to London, we took ABC to Recreation Park in Binghamton to ride the carousel. We were surprised to see two charging stations in the parking lot. I pulled into a slot and got a few kilowatt-hours in while we rode the carousel. It turned out that the chargers had just been installed. It was fun to see the media coverage, knowing that I had already availed myself of the service.

It has also been fun telling people about our EV and giving people rides. One of B’s co-workers, who has an approximately 120-mile (193 km) daily commute, decided to buy a Bolt from our dealership after talking to B about our experience. We had been the first Bolt sold there and he was the third. We are hoping that the sales of the Bolt and other EVs will expand so that the public charging network will grow, especially rapid chargers that will make it easier to take electric cars on long trips.

This will also make it easier to sell more EVs, which will be better for air quality and climate protection for everyone. As battery prices continue to come down, EVs will soon be priced similarly to gas vehicles without subsidies while being cheaper to run and maintain. Several European countries already have plans to phase out gasoline/diesel only vehicles; perhaps, one day, the United States will follow suit.

MASS MoCA, North Adams, and me

As we prepare for the second reunion of the Boiler House Poets later this month, our poet-organizer Kay sent this video from the PBS NewsHour about MASS MoCA and city of North Adams:  

Well, she sent it over a month ago, but I am just getting to it and this post…

Much of the piece concentrates on the intersection of MASS MoCA and North Adams history. The interview with Mr. Sprague especially struck me, as he wove together his family/business history with the larger story of the area.

When the Boiler House Poets re-convene, I am planning to spend at least some share of my studio time trying to assemble my first manuscript, a collection of poems tentatively entitled Monroe MoCA.  It weaves together my family history in North Adams and the surrounding small towns with the changes that have taken place over the decades and ends with a group of ekphrastic poems about pieces of MASS MoCA art.

For the first time, this year the Boiler House Poets will be giving a public reading, Wednesday, October 4, at 7 PM at the Makers’ Mill on Main Street. I will use my time to read a few poems from the collection.

I have been dreaming about this collection for almost two years and am excited/anxious/daunted by the prospect of actually piecing it together.

Wish me luck…

SoCS: the birth of ABC

Things have been very busy here, so I wasn’t sure I would SoCS this week, but when I saw the prompt, I knew I had to join in.

Birth has been on my mind a lot this year. Our daughter E has been living with us this year. When she and her husband L left Honolulu last December, L’s graduate student visa expired, so he had to go back to the UK. It will take a while to qualify for a spousal visa for E, so she has been living here in New York State with us.

She and L were expecting their first child on July first or so. It was hard to be apart, but it meant that I got to help out with things like going for ultrasounds. L was allowed to have a 90-day visa for the birth. He arrived in mid-May in time to attend an all-day blitz childbirth class. At one point, they had thought that he should go back to the UK and return in mid-June for the 90-day stay, but they decided to just have him remain after the childbirth class.

This turned out to be a good move as their baby girl arrived on June 6, three and a half weeks before anticipated. I wrote about this emotional time here.

It was great to have E, L and Baby ABC here with us for those first two months. Now that L is back in the UK, they visit often by skype. We are looking forward to a visit from L in October and another in time for ABC’s first Christmas.

We are trying to savor every minute as we expect that E and ABC will re-locate to London early in 2018. It will be bittersweet as we want them to be together full-time as a family, but it will be so hard to have them so far away.

ABC already has two passports, though, so she is all set to travel! Of course, she will need to bring at least one parent along!
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “birth/berth.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/09/01/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-217/

 

Visits and baptism

On Sunday, July 16, we celebrated ABC’s baptism.

We were blessed to have L’s mom visiting from the UK. I will call her Lola here, which is Tagalog for grandmother. She was here for a week and a half, during which we gave her as much cuddle time with ABC as possible. When all the necessary documents go through and E and ABC join L in the UK, they will be living with Lola and Lolo (grandfather), so the visit was the beginning of what will be years of cuddling and babysitting.

We were also excited to have daughter T home for a long weekend. Besides meeting her niece for the first time, T also became her baptismal sponsor. T’s own godmother served as a witness by proxy for L’s sister, who will be ABC’s British godmother.

Sorry for all the initials…

The baptism took place after Mass with the deacon, himself a grandfather several times over, presiding. ABC wore the same dress that Nana had bought sixty years ago for my older sister’s baptism, which was also worn by me, my younger sister, and both of my daughters. Here is a picture of all those who have worn this little dress.
baptism dress six

Paco was able to come down to church for the baptism, but Nana wasn’t well enough to join us. After the baptism, we convened at Nana and Paco’s apartment for a feast of Filipino food that L and Lola had prepared. Brent and I made pies for dessert. Everything was delicious!

We were very grateful that Lola got to meet Nana and Paco. It felt like they had known each other much longer than a few hours! I love this photo of Nana and Lola.
Nana and Lola

ABC is blessed to have many people praying for her. There was even a physical reminder of the support of E and L’s parish in Honolulu, where they were married and served in music ministry. The blanket Ada is napping on in this photo was made by a choir member there.
ABC in her baptism dress

 

catching up

I haven’t meant to keep you in the dark about life here. I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around posting much lately.

We have made a lot of progress with care for Nana. We now have her nurse/case manager from hospice on board and have been able to pass off prescription management to her. The number of medications needed has dropped because a number of them are no longer needed. For example, she doesn’t take a statin anymore because her cholesterol level is irrelevant at this point. It makes it easier to keep track of her meds, especially because hospice has taken over the ordering of refills.

Hospice is also handling medical equipment, such as oxygen and a wheelchair. They are good at solving problems, like providing cushions to protect her ears from the oxygen tubing. Simple things like that make a big difference.

It is nice to have just one number to call. If there are any questions, we just call hospice and they contact whichever doctor or service is needed. There is always someone on duty, even in the middle of the night, to address concerns or problems.

Meanwhile, ABC is already five weeks old! She had a checkup and is now almost two pounds (0.9 kg) heavier and 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) longer than when she was born. She has outgrown her preemie clothes and can wear regular newborn sizes. She is starting to focus on her surroundings. She is playing with some of her toys and is getting more tolerant of diaper changes, baths, and getting in and out of her carseat/carrier.

She is fascinated by her reflection in the mirror.

It is a blessing to have her here with E and L, watching them become a little family and assisting with baby care and general household tasks. Most advanced economies give parents paid time off for this life stage, although, sadly, the United States does not. We are grateful that E and L are able to have this important time to bond, especially because L will have to return to the UK in mid-August. We will miss watching his tender care of her, especially when he sits at the piano with her, cradling her in one arm and singing to her, accompanying himself with his free hand.

We are also blessed to be able to bring ABC to visit Nana and Paco. Unlike the earliest weeks, ABC now stays awake for part of the visit, so Nana and Paco get to see her deep blue eyes.

Tomorrow, L’s mom arrives from the UK and our younger daughter T arrives from Missouri. We are gathering for ABC’s baptism on Sunday.

ABC will wear a tiny white dress, first worn by my older sister, followed by me and our younger sister, twenty-some years later by my daughters, and twenty-some more years later by my granddaughter.

I retrieved it from the bottom of Nana’s cedar chest last week and we will return it there next week, in case another precious baby girl arrives in our family to wear it.

 

The end of reunion and the “after-party”

On Sunday morning, I went to breakfast early and was able to say good-bye to some of my classmates who were heading out before the official end of reunion to beat the Sunday afternoon traffic. Everyone was very appreciative of the events and very happy to have had time together. It is amazing how easily we relate to one another, even if we only see each other in person every five years, or even if we had not known each other well during our student days.

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Helen Hills Hills Chapel Smith College Northampton MA

At nine o’clock, several dozen alumnae gathered at Helen Hills Hills chapel for a service of remembrance. I arrived early and had a few moments to talk to the college organist about changes over the years. His role and the life at chapel are very different than in my years at Smith. When I was a student, there were Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish chaplains and weekly services at chapel for each tradition, along with a network of faculty and community advisors for other traditions. There were three choirs who periodically provided choral music for services, plus a student led gospel choir which sang for some of the ecumenical Christian services and other student volunteers who most often led music at Catholic Mass. (As a Catholic and an organist, I played often at Mass over my four years at Smith, as well as serving for two years as accompanist for one of the choirs and playing almost every organ piece I learned as a prelude or postlude for the Protestant services.)

Now, there are no chaplains and no regularly scheduled religious services on campus. There are advisors available in different spiritual traditions. The chapel still has space for prayer and meditation, but the main body of the chapel is now a multi-use space for concerts, lectures, classes, and the occasional service, such as the one we were gathering for that morning. The chapel was built in the New England Congregational style, but the pews on the main floor have been removed and the floor was changed to wood. It is jarring to me to walk into chapel. I do understand the need to make the space more versatile, but I think it could have been done in a way that was more in keeping with the architecture had the floor been New England hardwood and the chairs less clunky and modern in design. Even more, I lament the loss of service and leadership opportunities in their faith traditions for current students on campus. It was powerful to have services that were planned and attended almost exclusively by women; this basis has been a rock on which I have relied often in the storms that have followed in subsequent decades.

Sorry. End of rant. Back to our service of remembrance…

The prelude and postlude were Bach and we sang three hymns drawn from various traditions and a fellow ’82er sang a solo. There were readings from the Bible, the Qur’an, and from Rumi. Director of Religious and Spiritual Life Matilda Rose Cantwell prepared and led the service very gently and thoughtfully. The most moving part of the service was when Rev. Cantwell invited alumnae to come forward and give a remembrance of someone close to them. People from many different reunion classes spoke about classmates, professors, and family members. Two of my classmates who were from Northampton spoke movingly about their parents’ relationship with the town and the College. My college roommate, who served as one of the deacons of the Ecumencial Christian Church, spoke about two of her fellow deacons who died, Beth, during our senior year, and Amy, who died just weeks before reunion.

After the service, we visited Beth’s memorial tree beside the chapel.

Then, we continued on to our final official reunion activity, Sunday brunch. Our table did express our disappointment that our favorite sour cream coffee cake was not on the buffet.

We went back to our rooms to pack up and make sure that our headquarters was squared away before we left.

Several of us decided to stay in Northampton another night in order to process and decompress, particularly to support our two housemates who had chaired the reunion for our class. We decided to visit the Art Museum, which had a special exhibit on the villas of Oplontis near Pompeii. We then dispersed for hotel check-in and reconvened at Fitzwilly’s in downtown Northampton for dinner, joined by a housemate from the class of ’81 who lives locally. We then went back to one of the hotel rooms and proceeded to talk and talk and talk, with quite a bit of laughter mixed in!

We spent Monday morning doing what we needed to do, in my case, catching up on a bit of shopping, including buying some Massachusetts maple syrup to bring home for us and for Nana and Paco. We met for a final lunch together at Paul and Elizabeth’s, a restaurant at Thorne’s Market that was new when we were students. More eating, talking, and laughing and then a round of good-byes.

Before I left Northampton, I had one more visit to make. Another business that opened in Northampton when we were students is Steve Herrell’s Ice Cream. I always visit when I am in town. They have redecorated since my last visit, giving more area for seating. I splurged and ordered a sampler so I could have four flavors: black raspberry, malted vanilla, peppermint, and apple cider. Yum! I was happy to have the company of my in-town friend. We lingered for a long while, catching up on our lives and marveling at how Smith friends, even when they don’t see each other often, can immediately re-connect on a deep level.

Eventually, though, I had to head for home, although I could not help but feel that reunions are too short and too far apart.