Thursday, December 29, 2011

Skatin' Around the Christmas Tree - 1950s Style

Memories of Christmas back in the late 50s start with the living room filled with presents. This is before my brother arrived on the scene in 1959, so the presents circa 1958 included all-girl stuff for my two sisters and me. Dolls galore for Debi and Van, along with an easybake oven with a pack or two of cake mixes, a red tricycle with fancy handlebar handles with red and white streamers, and lots of new dresses and patent leather maryjanes. 

For me, the oldest at age 10, a microscope is the gift of choice. My mother gave me the deluxe model with a separate accessories case full of things like glass slides, little magnifyiers, dried bugs, and diatomaceous earth (I'm not sure I ever figured out what that was for). I was the girl child who never wore a dress, except when required for school. 

The crowning glory of our Christmas tree included special lights on the tree bubbling gold and red inside their 3-inch, liquid filled, glass spires. There's nothing in the 21st century to compare. (Now they are considered too dangerous to use, even if you can find them.)

Can it be true I received a new microscope every year? No, that's impossible. But I did receive a new pair of white ice skates every year. That's every single year from age 10 to 14. Rhode Island in winter is frozen solid and perfect for skating. Ponds and lakes from Weekapaug to Exeter hosted skaters in red and blue and snowflake sweaters. They twirled around the perimeters making sure someone special watched from the hillside nearby.

I had the skates, but I wasn't much of a skater. Once I stood up in them, my feet hurt no matter how many pairs of socks I wore. So, I would skate 5 minutes so my mother could watch and wave. Then I came in for hot chocolate.

Every year a child or two would fall through the ice and be hauled out later by the fire department. To me, this meant skating should be forever banned everywhere. But no. To be a New Englander, you must skate. Maybe that's why I live in Maryland. . . . 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Scoutie O' Scoutie - 1996 to November 2011

My dog Scoutie O' Scoutie died last night at the emergency hospital for animals in Friendship Heights in Washington, DC. From the waiting room chairs my daughter Erin and I could see Scoutie on the table with three attendants petting him, checking his blood pressure with a little blue cuff, and giving him fluids through a catheter line in his right front leg. His snout rested in an oxygen "mask" made of clear plastic with an air tube coming into it from a central panel that looked like a rocket ship's display board with lights flashing and faint bells going off here and there.

Every once in a while, he'd raise his head to see where we were or at least what was going on . . . When well, he never liked the vet. Last night, he let the team work on him without a struggle. His fluids were low and his blood pressure hovering at 50 . . . instead of a healthy 100.

It was Erin's idea to go to the emergency room . . . I felt that if we took him there, he might not get out. Well, this is not the time to say I was right. At 15 and 9 months, Scoutie was definitely an elder in the clan of his breed, Shiba Inu. In Japanese, those words translate to "little dog." Foxlike, playful, and communicative, Scoutie lived like the king of his domain. Last night he let Erin hold him in the back seat the entire time we were driving to 4105 Brandwine Street NW. I never saw him do that before . . . ever.

In the mornings, his routine included trotting along the fence in the front yard making sure that no intruder squirrels had entered the yard. Then he'd trot right back in to have his arthritis medicine wrapped in cheese and his usual food. Turns out that xrays showed he had some kind of growth in his belly. His low blood volume meant that growth was causing some bleeding that no other checkups or treatments caught.

So here we are, in the ER, with the doc telling me it would be "inhumane" to bring him home in the car. The alternative? Leave him there for hydration purposes and see the internist on Monday morning to do an FNA and see what kind of growth we were dealing with. Chances that he might not survive the two days waiting for the internist were high. And chances are he might not survive the chemo to treat the tumor.

At home he would be more uncomfortable without the fluids.  This is a difficult decision . . . He raised his head from the table and looked directly into my eyes . . . I hugged him and that was it.

If you love your pet, would you make him go through chemo? Scoutie was so weak at that point, I couldn't imagine him surviving through the night.

And that was true . . .

My son and I almost lost our lives getting Scoutie near a strip mall on the other side of Richmond. We arrived early and as we hung up the payphone (1996, remember), this car full of teenagers came barrelling into the parking lot and crashed their car right into the payphone seconds after WE had stepped away.

So, we were compelled to pick out a puppy . . . the girl seemed aloof and certainly cost more. As Sean sat on the floor near the puppies, one tumbled over his legs and plopped in his lap. And Scoutie was ours . . .
forever, we thought, but no. Just for a while. As a family, we are grateful to have Scoutie as long as we did.

Scout seemed wise beyond his puppy existence . . . he came in every morning to wake me up in a staring game that always beat the alarm clock for precision. 6:30 on the dot . . . This morning I felt his eyes on me as usual . . . except of course, he wasn't really there. Or maybe he is . . . and will always be. My Scoutie.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Third Thursday Reading Series in Takoma Park Begins on September 15

Poetry season in Takoma Park begins on September 15 at 7:30 pm with the Third Thursday Reading Series at the Community Center. Four poets, including Meredith Pond, will read or perform their work in front of a wild crowd of town residents, friends, relatives, and former teachers and parole officers.

Meredith Pond . . . Who?

Is she the woman who used to post all the time to her Pond on Pond blog? Yes, yes, yes. Well, she's been busy. But, Meredith promises to read some of her published poems, including "Peeling Psyche Off the Wall" and "Sleeping with Tigers" as well as a few more recent poems that would scare the hide off a cat. 

Third Thursday Reading Series in Takoma Park, Maryland: Begins September 15, 2011.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Poem Celebrating Langston Hughes

The poem below, one I wrote before Christmas last year, was published online in Beltway Poetry Quarterly (Volume 12, Number 1  Winter 2011) for the Langston Hughes Tribute Issue.  After the poem appeared online, I met Kim Roberts at a fundraiser for the MFA Program in Creative Writing at American University. The event feature alums, friends, family, and a special music moment with Kermit Moyer on harmonica and David Keplinger on guitar . . . blues against a painted wall looking a little like a street corner in New Orleans. 

You can still catch the entire Langston Hughes tribute issue online. Visit Beltway Quarterly's Website This issue is co-Edited by Katy Richey and Kim Roberts.


by Meredith Pond

Nobody here I know ‘cept you,
painted on a big mural, you
standing at the mic at the Vanguard,
Mingus playing those weary blues
as you recite your poems.
Your face conjures a time
when the city hummed and glittered,
and we listened to you on vinyl
and slow danced in the corner
when Shirley Horn showed up to sing
at the One Step Down on the edge
of Georgetown, not far from our own
dusky river, that cruel-hearted river,
all fog and phantom now as we stand here
at the boathouse looking out at white
on white. Before dawn we walk home.
Looking at you reminds me what poetry is,
that syncopated beat, the heart pounding,
all that foot tapping to music only we can hear.

Meredith Pond makes her home in Takoma Park, MD, a nuclear-free zone. Published poems include "Peeling Psyche Off the Wall," in the Georgetown Review (Spring 2008); and "A Cormorant Dries Her Wings," Poetry Magazine online (Summer 2007). Pond's experimental short fiction, "Way Back When," is included in the anthology Gravity Dancers: More Fiction by Washington Area Women; "Proud Hail," is included in Kiss the Sky: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology. Pond received her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at American University in Washington, DC, where she studied storytelling, poetry, and fiction.

"Nobody Here," by Meredith Pond, published in Beltway Volume 12, Number 1, Winter 2011.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

San Ignacio's Gray Whales: What a Trip!

A couple of days at whale camp at San Ignacio lagoon on the Pacific side of the Baja is just not enough . . .
Here's me in all my SPF 30 gear scritching the head of a young gray whale. This "little" whale, way bigger than the panga, liked us enough to come back to visit two times of the four trips we made out into the middle of the water.
It's easier when the water's calm. The encounters I mean. There's a special area where pangas can wait for a whale or a mother and child to approach. I think no more than 16 boats can be there at a time. Most of the lagoon is exclusively for the whales with no humans allowed at any time.
There's tremendous respect for these wondrous creatures. They feel like memory foam mattresses . . . not fishy or slimy. Other folks may have a different reaction to touching a whale's body. Tell me what you felt! It all happens so fast . . . the boat is moving, you are moving around with the four or five other people in there, the guide has his camera, the person handling the motor is on the special radio, and all the while other whales are breeching up ahead and behind you, other pangas are having whale encounters, whales are everywhere.
March is a great time to be there . . . Check out Baja Expeditions online.
And my apologies for the delayed posting. It's true, things are happening!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

To San Ignacio Lagoon

In 2005, I took this photo of a gray whale in Magdalena Bay.

Almost time to leave for the Baja again. Ticket, snorkel and mask, pesos, my "easy Spanish" guide, flipflops, sunglasses. You get the picture. Gringo lady loose in Mexico.

My usual trip to Cabo is in February, but this trip is special. Cabo is just a 3-day "pit stop" at the Fiesta Americana resort in Los Cabos where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortes under my balcony, which overlooks Pelican Rock and the Council of Gulls (they meet at the water's edge for each sunrise).

After that, a bus North up Route 1--passing through Todos Santos, La Paz, Magdalena Bay, and across the peninsula and the mountains to Loreto.

As early spring pops the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin near the Washington Monument, I'll be on my way to San Ignacio Lagoon where mother gray whales give birth to their babies in the protected waters there.

Traveling with ocean acoustics expert Michael Stocker (trip organizer) will be me and about 10 other whale-inspired adventurers. Actually, kids take this trip with their parents and grandparents so it's not too "wild." Except of course, we're reaching over the side of a panga (small boat), and these friendly (30 tons) whales are right there to touch if any of us are lucky (which we are). Babies are only half a ton.

We are somewhere inland from the Pacific Ocean and below the Vizcaino Desert Biosphere. The area around San Ignacio Lagoon is a protected area where only locals can take us out to encounter the whales.

Our guide will be a member of the Mayoral family. The patriarch of that family is the first person ever to be approached by the gray whales back in 1970.

I'm honored to be a part of this group. But, all the details of getting ready for a trip like this (travel light! Bring a hat! Watch out for scorpions!) are a challenge.  

Jeez, what if I forget something? Or I chicken out and just stay at the resort in Cabo? That will never happen. Destiny is calling. I just hope my camera stays dry and I don't fall overboard.

I don't expect to be eaten. Not to worry, grays only eat organic -- tiny things from the bottom of the lagoon that they filter through their baleen. 

Reading about gray whales is a survivor's story. They used to be called "devilfish" because when a whaler harpooned a baby, the mother would kill the attackers and destroy the ship. I'd do that for my children, so I figure the grays and I have something in common.   

In the 1980s, grays were placed on the endangered species list for close to 20 years. Now, with their numbers at more than 20,000, they are off the list (last time I heard). 

Endangered? Well, I just turned 63. I'll let you know as soon as I get back!    

Visit Pachico Mayoral’s Website

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Shovel, Shovel, Toil and Trouble

What's a neighborhood, if not a place to stand out on the sidewalk leaning on a shovel and complaining about all the snow.

If you're lucky (I know you are) there's somebody there listening to you whine into your scarf, all damp now because your nose is running and your mittens are wet. We've all been there. Sayin' we really hate the end of January.

We are not in a Wallace Stevens poem. The nothing hurts and the wind and the junipers are too much for one woman with a skinny carrot and a black hat pulled down over her ears and eyes so those icy spindles falling from the street light won't hit her face when the post bends over from the gale force blizzard of one (apologies to Mark Strand, I took his shovel too).

Anyway, the wind. Blowing hard. The lavender beret comes loose and blows down the street towards the towering plastic fence where all the dogs and cats in the world are fostered for the winter. On your street! My street! They howl the whole time. You can hear them --when the wind stops-- for a nanosecond. Gulp air. Wonder why . . . why are you outside???

We are so deep in the wintery winter. En Francais, winterminable. The lucky have soup or hot chocolate. The not so lucky, well . . . our democracy is failing them. At any rate, shoveling the sidewalk in front of the house is the law. And we have to buy seeds for the chickadees too. How can anything be so cute? The question is, do I have to do all this myself?

Andy, the guy up the street, will charge me $30 to run his shovel down the sidewalk in front of the house. If it's 10 feet, I'm a snowman. I can't give in. Is this really what capitalism is for? Really? Aren't we at heart socialists? Sharing the burden of life itself? A fading democracy of slippery sidewalks?

Yesterday, when it was warmer, I went outside in my shorts to deliver sunflower seeds to one more adorable chickadee. I'm sure it's a different one every time. I used a silver tray and draped white linen over my wrist. I never take a yard bird for granted. I live to serve.

I have family in Rhode Island where snow is a way of life. Streets are plowed, kids go to school, people walk around brushing snow off their shoulders as if nothing is happening. But when they want to, they can play the snow card and start telling stories like they were pitching a "storm of the century" script to Stephen Spielberg. Rhode Islanders are born storytellers. They'll tell you anything to get your attention.

On the other hand, those of us who live in the DC area are another kind of bird. Except for me, most of us fly south for the winter . . .

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Made of Sand . . .

I took this photo in 2005, the first time I visited Cabo San Lucas near a place called Land's End at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.

After looking at the stone for a long time, I realized I had never seen anything like this formation ever before. It meant something. I just didn't know what.

Maybe a family who lived in the sea found themselves on shore one morning all stuck together and melting in the sun. 

Or maybe a child created this sand sculpture from memory. His mother and father enfolding him between their bodies. His own body remembered what they felt like, that last time he was with them. A feeling he could make with his hands but not with his words.