back in Northampton

I shared previously that I would be singing Brahms’ Requiem at Smith this weekend. The plans were all in place – and then the weather forecast took a drastic turn for my planned Friday car trip to get to Northampton. Fortunately, I was able to re-arrange my schedule to travel a day earlier to avoid a long drive in the storm.

This also meant that I had some unexpected free time in Northampton, a welcome bonus. I went to Thorne’s Market when I arrived, buying local maple syrup at Cornucopia and locally made soap at Cedar Chest. I indulged in a chair massage to loosen up my back and shoulders in preparation for a lot of standing, score-holding, and singing over these next two days.

I also visited Herrell’s Ice Cream, which opened around the time I began at Smith, and enjoyed a sampler, because getting a bit of four flavors is so much more fun than a larger serving of just one! They still make malted vanilla, which was always a favorite of mine, so, of course, that made it into my dish.

Next, I walked around campus. My first stop was Helen Hills Hills chapel, where, as an organist, choral singer, and accompanist, I spent many hours in my student days. Sadly, there are no longer regularly scheduled services held there and it still looks strange to me to see chairs instead of the pews. As I climbed the stairs to the gallery, I noticed that the red carpet that had begun to bleach near the stairwell window is now almost entirely golden on those few stairs from the years of sunlight streaming on them.

I sat on the organ bench briefly, touched each of the three manuals, and looked over the once-familiar stop knobs. It’s been so long since I have been able to play that I sometimes have to remind myself that I ever could. I wonder how many organ students there are now; I think, perhaps, there are three, judging from the organ shoes on the rack in the corner of the gallery.

I noticed a few cracks in the panes of glass in the gallery windows and some dust in the corners, which makes me sad.

I went down to the basement to visit the Bodman Lounge, which has not changed very much. I had memories of being there dressing for my wedding, which took place a few weeks after my commencement. I called my mom, who was awake and alert. My sister had arrived safely and will be there for the weekend while I am gone.

Next, I went to Wright Hall to visit the Poetry Center, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. There is a case with poetry books written by alumnae. I made a point to find the books by Anne Harding Woodworth, whom I met through the Alumnae Chorus. She will be returning to campus to sing Brahms and I’m looking forward to seeing her.

Central campus is sort of a pit right now – literally. The main library is being mostly demolished and the foundation being constructed for the new building. There is a large area cut off by construction fencing with some lookout posts carved out to view the progress.

Some of the bulbs on the hillside between Chapin House and Wright Hall are already starting to come up.

There are some fantastic large rocks on display near the science center. I want there to be signs near them as there are with the trees and plantings, telling what they are and where they came from.

I wandered around in Sage Hall, which is the music building. There have been extensive renovations since I was there, including in the concert hall. I found the office of a professor who taught me music history by the Berlioz postings near his door. I actually got to see one of the soon-to-retire members of the voice faculty who started teaching at Smith the first year I was a student. My roommate studied with her and they still keep in touch.

I walked up the hill by Paradise Pond and through the relatively newly opened President’s garden on the way back to my car.

A friend from Smith who lives in the area graciously offered to house me for the weekend – and even more graciously offered to accommodate my arrival a day early. She made a lovely risotto for supper and we had some time to chat and catch up.

The storm blew in here overnight, mostly rain, but with a bit of snow mixed in, and very windy. I hope everyone will be able to get here in time for our first rehearsal at 4:00.

I’m very grateful to be tucked in here at my friend’s home, cozy and warm, rather than trying to drive in the snow and wind to the west.

Next on the agenda, some time seated at her piano, spot checking a few places in the Requiem before rehearsal…



SoCS: no retreat

“After what might” have been a night on retreat, I am instead sitting on an upholstered chair next to our still-fragrant Christmas tree with my new Christmas-present laptop on my lap.

I had hoped to be on a 24-hour retreat at a nearby spiritual center. The theme was to have been finding some optimism for the new year.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough people sign up to go ahead with the program.

Part of the reason signups were low was probably the weather. Yesterday, the weather was rainy with a high in the 60s F. (16 C). Overnight, the temperature plummeted to well below freezing. There is an inch or two of snow (5 cm), mostly likely with a coating of ice underneath with more snow expected.

I know it is safer for all of us to be at home, but I still wish the retreat had not been cancelled.

I need any hope or optimism I can get for the year ahead.
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week was to base the post on the sixth, seventh, and eighth words of whatever piece of writing was at hand when we sat down to write, hence the quotation marks at the beginning. It’s also part of Just Jot It January. Join us for one or both! Details here:



Binghamton Poetry Project – Spring 2017

March was very hectic, but I did manage to attend four of five sessions for the Binghamton Poetry Project. Our reading took place on April first, but I missed it as it was the same afternoon as our University Chorus concert.

I haven’t had a chance to collect my anthology yet, but these three poems are my contribution. The first two were written from prompts during our sessions and the last one I wrote in response to the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of one of the Grapevine Group poets that we each write a snow poem after our big storm.

Enjoy! (And comment if you are so moved…)


Her breaths are fast and shallow
between coughs.
I untie her sneakers,
work them off,
pull off her socks,
help her out of her shirt and pants,
slip her nightgown on.

She sits on the edge
of the bed,
pivots to lie down,
but needs me to lift
her feet.
I pull up the covers,
close the door,
and wait for the X-ray results.


Two Hearts

Her cardiac rehab is Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

He rides with her in the retirement home van,
helps her navigate into the lift with her walker,
sits with her in the waiting room
until she is called into therapy
where he is not allowed to follow.

He waits.

Her exercises accomplished,
they board the van for the ride
back home to their apartment
where lunch awaits.

After sixty-two years of marriage,
he does not want her to go


Nor’easter Numbers

The forecast was for an inch overnight
with Five to Eight to follow;
then, One to Three
with Six to Nine.

I rose before the daylight-saving
delayed dawn to find
a foot of snow already down,
consequence of a more westerly
a stall.

My strategy,
born of long-ago New England winters,
to clear the overnight
accumulation from the driveway,
then shovel
every few inches,
add in the front walk
and path to the mailbox
as strength allows.

A good plan,
but overly ambitious
for a Five foot One-and-a-half inch
with a shovel
contending with the wake
of snowplows
and snow falling at Two
or Three
or Four
an hour,
Twenty-seven inches
by Five o’clock
and still snowing.

Seven bouts of shoveling,
Twelve thousand, ninety-one Fitbit steps,
and Two blessed assists
from the neighbors’ snowblower
yield a driveway cleared to a road
under a county-wide travel ban,
a path to a mailbox that may
be filled with today’s mail

weather permitting.

One-Liner Wednesday: record snow

What our backyard shed looks like when the wind picks up after over thirty inches (0.8 meters) of snow yesterday.
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A few more snow photos

A few photos from shoveling part six, following up from my post with photos from earlier in the day:

House with snow banks at about 5 PM
I am really worried about the snow sliding off the garage roof and blocking the overhead door…
At 5 PM, I measured 27 inches (2/3 meter) of snow in the front yard.

The snow is supposed to continue until at least midnight and the wind has started to pick up. I am about to go out for shoveling session seven. We are all hoping that we don’t get heavy winds. Big snowstorm is preferable to blizzard.

burying the lead (in snow)

Yesterday, when we were standing in the cold outside Claudia Tenney’s office, the cold seemed a curse, but it was a (bit of a) blessing in disguise.

Today, here in the Binghamton (NY) area, we are experiencing a nor’easter, which is a storm that comes up the Atlantic coast and whose rotation results in winds from the northeast.  This is the strongest we have had in many years, perhaps because it was strengthened by a second low pressure system coming from the west.

The tricky thing about forecasting nor’easters is that the exact track of the storm makes a huge difference in the snowfall amount. The prediction had been that we were going to get one to three inches starting about midnight, with an additional eight to ten during the day.

I set my alarm to get up in the pre-dawn darkness – insert grumbling about Daylight Saving Time here – to shovel the driveway to get to an morning appointment. I looked out the front door to find not one to three inches, but a foot (about a third of a meter) already on the ground with heavy snow continuing, sometimes at a rate of two to three inches an hour.

Our house mid-morning

Apparently, the storm had tracked further west than anticipated – and then stalled. Fortunately, the cold from the day before was holding, though, so while we are getting A LOT of snow, it is light and fluffy, not the heavy, wet snow that mixes with sleet and freezing rain and causes power outages.

Still, it is daunting to shovel so much of it…

I worked for an hour and didn’t even have one lane of the driveway clear when I cam in to rest.

The appointment with E’s obstetrician’s office was cancelled because the office was closed, along with just about everything else in the county. The governor instituted a travel ban and is calling out the National Guard to help in the storm cleanup. We may get as much as thirty inches of snow , which I can believe, given that we have almost two feet on the ground as I write this in mid-afternoon.

(Just in case you had forgotten about E’s pregnancy – I had forgotten myself that I had written about it – you can read some of the backstory here.)

I’ve spent the day alternating shoveling time with rest and recovery time. I am very grateful that, during shoveling round four, our next-door neighbors came to help with their snowblower. Ordinarily, B uses our big Ariens snowblower that my dad gave us when he no longer needed it to clear snow for us and the neighbors, but B is away on business, the Ariens is currently in need of repair, and I am not strong enough to use it. They were able to clear the second pass of snowplow pile blocking the end of the driveway and make an initial path to the front stairs and mailbox, although there isn’t going to be any mail delivery today. Sometimes, the “neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night” bit doesn’t hold.

I need to get out there for round six now. I am trying to keep the driveway and path clear enough that we could get out in case of emergency. It is getting harder because the snow banks are getting higher than my head, so it is hard to throw the snow over them. I have left myself a little extra space for the driveway, in case of bank mini-avalanche, but I am dreading when the snow slides off the metal garage roof and lands in a giant pile in the driveway. Maybe it will wait until tomorrow, or Thursday, or even better, Friday, when B will return home.

Backyard with ridiculously buried bird feeders




SoCS: coat

A lot of places in the US are under a coat of white from snow.

Not exactly a surprise in January, except that, while there is snow in places one expects, like Colorado, the Dakotas, and Vermont, but also in some places where it is more unusual, such as Alabama and the Carolinas. Seattle, Washington has also recently had snow.

Weirdly, we don’t have much here in the Binghamton, New York area.  While some parts of the state have had massive lake effect snows, the wind pattern is preventing them from reaching us here. The storm systems are coming up the coast and we are too far inland to get major amounts of snow from them.

Also weirdly, the cold and snow dipping into the Southern US are caused by the warming of the Arctic region.  This pushes the polar vortex south.

This weekend, we are having some of our coldest temperatures of the winter. I am pulling out the heavy coats.

Postscript: You can tell this is stream of consciousness because I misused a correlative conjunction and couldn’t go back and fix it.
It’s a double dip! This post is both part of Linda’s Just Jot It January and Stream of Consciousness Saturday. The prompt is “coat.” Join us! Find out more here: