Issue 70 ~ July 1, 2012 To view this issue as a Web page: CLICK HERE. The crack of thunder and lightning put me to sleep last night. It was blissful

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Picnik collage copy

Issue 70 ~ July 1, 2012

To view this issue as a Web page: CLICK HERE.

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The crack of thunder and lightning put me to sleep last night. It was blissful for the rain we needed, but also because I love a good electric storm. Growing up in Texas I knew them well, and they are not as common here in Western New York. When we do get a good storm, I relish it. This morning I’m writing from my table in the woods; it’s still wet from rain so I brought out two kitchen towels, one to place under my computer, and one for under my fanny. It’s the perfect temperature, but the trees are still shaking off the water from their leaves and if one more big drop falls on my computer I might have to go back inside. For now I’m happy to be surrounded by birdsong and the rhythm of water drops.

Yesterday I spent the day in Perry, a wonderful little town in Wyoming County, to take some photos and visit some of the friends I’ve made there. Perry is one of those villages that is giving good efforts toward a revival, new shops opening, restoration of the grand old buildings lining the main street. Just this year a new butcher shop, an outdoor outfitter, a used furniture and antique store and a lovely hair salon have opened. It seems like a struggle full of big hopes and hard work to make a go of a business there, but folks are optimistic and are really doing their share to promote and support their friends in the community that are taking the chance. There is also a perfect little indie bookstore that feels like the hub of the town. While I was there working many friends and neighbours stopped in to talk about the latest news and enjoy a good cup of coffee. I love spending time there, and always find a book to purchase. This visit I brought home a young adult novel that I discovered, “Between Shades of Grey,” by Ruta Sepetys. No, this has nothing to do with the ridiculous bandwagon of those other books about shades of grey. You can take the link to her Web site to read more about it, but what caught my attention was this small quote: “Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.” I have two other books to read before I begin this one, but I will surely let you know what I think when I’m finished.

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Clovers make the prettiest cut flower.

All the hope of a blossoming, once struggling town like Perry fuels my own big hopes. Reminds me that we’re all in some sort of limbo of where we are right now, and where we hope to be someday, and that it takes action to begin our journey to “someday.” And that it also requires being open to the idea that things might not end up exactly like you picture them. The outdoor outfitter is evolving into a bakery and coffee shop, too, to bring more customers in and some income to support their main vision. And what a gift this has been; the few tables that occupy the front of their store are now another place for community to gather. Perry is all about community. The businesses support one another, advertise for one another, as much as for themselves. Pretty cool.

My first essay in week’s Nest is about the idea of “maybe someday,” but not being so focused on the dangling carrot that we forget or ignore the gift of now, the dailiness of our lives that I’m beginning to understand is the real prize. I suggested the same theme to Rick for his “Last Straw,” but his hunt for words this week took a different direction: the mystery, and blessing, of family. We get to come along on his experiences of two weekends of "family" gatherings, quite different from one another, but both so worthwhile.

My second essay is more of a memoir of a specific moment in my college years, an event that was a secret until now, but is remembered as a time when I really needed the validation that I was more than I believed myself to be. It comes from a time in my life when my priorities were different than they are now as a more mature woman, but it reminds me that even at forty-eight years of age there are things about myself that I’ve come to believe because of the circumstances of my life, and the opinions of others, and that often our impediments are simply that: beliefs that are imposed on us that CAN be broken through on our lifelong journey to discover what we’re really made of, what we’re really capable of, and what’s truly important to us.

At the time of my life I wrote about in this memoir, I was struggling a lot with the idea of not measuring up to my former husband’s idea of beautiful. Now it seems such an unimportant thing to be preoccupied with, but it left a mark on me that I’m still trying to erase. That day that I wrote about, that I was allowed to feel beautiful and worthy of capturing with an artist’s eye on paper, was meaningful at the time. It still is, somehow, even though I also see the silliness of it. I hope the message I was trying to uncover for myself is uncovered for you, too. It’s a tricky thing to attempt to put it into words without casting blame, but only trying to see it as it was and value how it helped me at the time.

On to lighter things, the recipe in this issue is timely for Independence Day picnics and gatherings. What’s more American than potato salad? Well, my potato salad is a family recipe that comes by way of Denmark. It’s different, and delicious, and is right at home on any American picnic table covered with a red-checkered cloth. I hope you’ll try it. It never lasts long in my house when I make it---just yummy.

My photos this week are a mixed bag. There are images taken throughout the week of things that caught my attention, but the photos at the end were captured every half-hour during one specific day. I thought I would document a typical day in my life right now, not terribly interesting, but when I will look back on it in a year or more it will give me a sense of where I was on my journey, the little details of my days that I may forget otherwise. It also helps me to see that even as I’m struggling to make a go of life, the reality of how I’m spending my days is pretty wonderful. And I lose sight of that. It’s good to be reminded that the “someday” is being created with a lot of the “right now, every day” stuff, and I should be ever grateful for the way I get to spend my days, even if under the surface of them they are sometimes fraught with frustration, impatience and worry.

Thank you for your comments and emails this week. I heard from a couple of readers that they find it confusing to use the “Leave a Comment” feature within the issues. When you take the link it brings you to my blog site where you’ll see a photo of the current week’s table of contents (the table of contents do not contain web links, by the way, so if you click on them nothing happens). If you scroll down you’ll find a place to leave a comment. The directions are fairly self-explanatory from there, but you do need to enter an email address (you can also sign in with Facebook), and then when you submit the comment you are prompted to enter a code that is given to you. This helps keep spamming at bay. Many of you prefer to send a private email, and that’s wonderful, too. I just love hearing your thoughts; it makes Nest more like a conversation. A community. I’m working towards that, and hope that you are considering sending me your thoughts or photos for the new feature “Tell Me About It,” that I wrote about last week. The deadline is July 31, and the topic is “My Hometown.” I can’t wait to read and see what your impressions of your hometown are. Oh! At the beginning of each issue there is also a link to view it as a web page. This is helpful for those of you who don’t receive emails in HTML, or who want to read it on a mobile device. It also allows you to save the entire issue as a bookmark, to easily revisit later. I hope this explains some of the features I have built into each Nest.

Well, I’ve made it without any enormous water drops on my keyboard, although my hair is sufficiently wet. Time to go inside for more coffee. I hope you find something good in this week’s Nest. It’s a privilege to share it with you, to be creating this little publication each week, a big part of my dreams. Thanks for being here.

P.S. My first online class for the summer should be ready to launch in under two weeks. I'm very excited to share it with you. More on that next week!

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In This Issue:

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Essay:

Maybe Someday

Memoir:

The Mythological Me

Recipes of the Week:

The Family Potato Salad

Photos

A Day in The Life

The Last Straw by Rick Ohler

Family Mystery: A Tale of Two Weekends

Daily Bread

Hope

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Essay:

Maybe Someday

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Look closely at the glass in the photograph. It found me while I was shopping with my daughter at one of her favourite stores; one small glass yanking on my shirt sleeve amidst a thousand other things on the tables and shelves. “Maybe Someday,” it says. The last thing I needed was another glass in my crammed cupboards, especially one so impractical it could only hold a few gulps of water. I couldn’t leave the store without it. Eight dollars and some change paid to the clerk and it was mine.

Maybe someday are two words that seem to occupy a lot my thoughts, at least as an answer to some of my needs and wishes. From things I’d love to improve around my house and yard, to places I’d love to make a road trip to, professional goals and dreams I have, to more personal desires, I seem to be forever adding those words on the tail end: Maybe someday. I don’t think that’s so unusual; I’m pretty sure we all have a bucket list of these kinds of things. But when the longing for them stunts and overshadows my ability to take care of and make the best of NOW, well, those hopeful yearnings become more of a road block than wings to help me along to my destination. They keep me stuck. They tether me down when they could be lifting me to soar.

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Photo source unknown. I saw it on Pinterest, but could not find who took it, or even where it is. My goodness...my dream house of all dream houses. Maybe someday.

Some folks are just more practical and action-oriented than I will ever be, and I’m finally accepting that it’s okay to exist on the dreamier idealistic side of life---as long as I’m moving forward and accomplishing something. But all these maybe somedays, no matter how inspired I might be, and no matter how many creative ideas I come up with to pursue them, well, I can tend to float around in them like a swan’s feather in a whirling breeze. I get so far out in dreamville that I can waste hours before I realize I’ve been in Never Never Land and haven’t accomplished a scintilla of anything (and I capitalize Never Never Land because I am certain it is a real place.) That’s not giving me much credit though. I do accomplish things. Seventy issues of Unweaving The Nest Weekly are proof of that pudding. And that started out as a dream, didn’t it? But lately the future, my future, is feeling more and more like a reverie than something tangible and it’s causing me a lot of nerve-wracked tummy aches and panic-filled brain freezes.

Let’s wander back a while to a time when I was still married, but knew that my marriage was over. I was living in limbo, expectant for the final straw that would ease my former husband out the door. We both knew it was over, but somehow neither of us could pull the plug and stop holding one another back from getting on with our lives. I had dreams of what it would be like for both of us to finally be free, how everything in both of our lives that was weighing us down and keeping us hostage would suddenly evaporate and reveal a new chance on life as wide and vast as the state of Kansas. For one of the final years we lived together I remember waking up every morning like normal, getting my kids off to school, doing what needed to be done, and then crawling back into bed. There I would scratch out my hopes and dreams on a piece of paper, burn it in the fireplace, and then shuffle back into bed to sleep the time away until my kids arrived home, when I would pick myself up and carry on the show. I slept away hours and hours of the gift of time. That is something I am still ashamed of, even though I have a sliver of empathy for my pathetic, deeply unhappy self at that time in my life.

Oh I wrote lots of “poetry” during that year. Angst-laden rhyming verse to rival the most foreboding poems of Emily Dickinson. And this comparison is not made because they were anywhere near the same level of craft, just the same volume of ennui. Every day I acted like a monk going to his cell, isolated, prayerful, contemplating the troubles of the world (mostly my world), but doing nothing to get myself out in it so I could do something about it. Yet, finally I did. One day there was a miraculous crack in the thick walls of my cell, and I saw the light. I started writing fiction to work out some of my demons, and I began to attend a writing class, the same one I am still attending, seven years later. It took another couple of years before my former husband and I parted ways, but I didn’t spend those years curled up in bed. I took action. I got involved again. I found the courage to say “To hell with maybe someday. I’m going to get back to living my life right now.”

I’m sure some of my more practical and realistic readers are shaking your heads and, while sympathetic, you probably just don’t get how I could have wasted so much time. But that’s how I operate. It’s how I incubated my courage to move ahead. We all take a road to get somewhere, and mine might be a little slower and hillier than the the next gal’s, and my engine might stall more often than not, and I may travel more in the dark than the daylight, too. But eventually I get there. And it seems I’m always the stronger for it once I’ve arrived. Where a life is concerned, there is only one final destination though; it appears that presently I’m simply on my way to another pit stop, with lots of towns called Maybe Someday along the back roads.

I could look back on that year in my cell, wistfully catechizing myself about the things I could have accomplished if I had only thrown my angst into some kind of worthwhile creative pursuit. Dwelling in the subjunctive mood doesn’t get a person anywhere though. We all do that from time to time, right? Not just us dreamers. What I do realize now is that my life is pretty damn fine. I have love and friendship and family and I live in a community that rivals the best of anything ever imagined. I am pursuing my dreams even when I sleep. I have come to the other side of the health worries of cancer and I have the ability to continue on improving my chances of never having to say the words “I have cancer” again. I’m working on that. Every week I get to dream up and create my love letter to my readers here in the Nest. And I have many hopes for maybe someday. So here’s my conclusion: One day at a time. One moment of day at a time. This is enough. The past is gone, and hopefully I’ve learned at least something from it. The future is mostly out of my control, except for the desire to pursue what I believe in and to work at it daily. What I do have, what each of us has, is right now. Maybe someday just doesn’t hold up to making right now something worth remembering.

A work in progress. I can live well with that. Time to enjoy a martini from my little glass. Not maybe someday, right now. It’s five o’clock somewhere.

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Don't the cows look like little plastic toys? I absolutely love how this image turned out. Taken last weekend on a drive through the hills.

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Memoir

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The Mythological Me

Marc scribbled his address on a piece of paper and tore it from his notebook. “Here,” he said, “Wednesday morning at 7:30. If you change your mind, it’s cool, I’ll understand.” He knew I was taking a risk to be there, that my husband already told me he didn’t approve.

“No way. That’s not appropriate. You’re married,” my husband had said.

“Most pregnant women are,” I replied.

“Well, whatever. I’m not having my wife exposing herself in this condition in front of a bunch of guys.”

“It’s not just a bunch of guys, it’s a figure drawing class at a University. And what do you mean in this condition?”

“Pregnant. It’s just not right. Why the hell would they want to draw you looking like that?”

“Because it’s a study of the human form, and this condition, as you call it, is an elemental human form?”

“Whatever. You’re not doing it.”

I decided to accept the offer regardless. The next day I told Marc what had happened, that I still wanted to do it, that we could just keep it a secret.

“You can’t keep it a secret if there are drawings of you plastered all over the studio.” Marc said, “He goes in there. He’ll see them for sure. Look, Kateri, I don’t want to cause trouble for you two. It was just an idea. I can find someone else.”

“I want to do it. What if I just sat for you? For your portfolio only? You don’t have to hang it on the wall.”

“You sure? I can’t pay you twenty bucks on my own.”

“I’m sure. I don’t want the twenty bucks. We’ll just keep it between you, Lisa and me. I was honoured that you asked me, and I want to do it for you. God, it’s really not a big deal. He’s just impossible that way. You would think an art student would get it. It’s not even worth arguing with him about it,” I said.

It was settled. I was not only anticipating the experience, but also to finally see where Marc and his girlfriend Lisa lived. I imagined something like the houses of hippies in the late-60s: incense burning, posters of Joplin and Hendrix, an unmade bed of Indian sari fabrics, mattress on the floor.

On Wednesday morning I walked my husband to his first class like always, saying that I was going to the coffee shop to finish my Russian homework before my own classes began. Instead, I went directly to Marc and Lisa’s apartment, only three blocks from the school. It wasn’t as exotic as I had imagined; it was a studio apartment, linoleum floors peeling up at the edges of the room, clothing in piles and draped over chairs, dirty dishes stacked on the counter and in the sink---but there was art everywhere. Lisa gave me a silk Oriental robe to put on and I undressed in the tiny bathroom. I pinned my long, pale hair up in a loose bun at the nape of my neck.

She had opened the blinds and the morning sun was streaming through, spilling light on the floor cushions she had draped with a deep crimson fabric.

When Marc was positioned with his pencils and large pad of paper, I stood in front of the cushions and after a fleeting moment of shyness, I opened the robe, letting it fall from my shoulders.

“Let’s start there. Ten minutes okay? For you to hold it?” he said.

It was more difficult than I had imagined, to remain perfectly still. I was seven months pregnant and my muscles grew tired quickly. Lisa had made some kind of spicy herbal tea with milk; after the first ten minutes I put the robe back on and we sat and drank tea so I could rest. We did three other poses in that hour; I held the last one for thirty minutes. I took the robe off, lay on my side, my taut pregnant belly resting on the cushion, top leg bent at the knee and touching the floor; only the diluted sunlight touched my skin. I felt more like myself than I had in a very long time, strong and defiant.

We were quiet that last thirty minutes of the drawing session; the only sound was the light scratching of pencil touching paper. The air was electrified. I could feel even the tiniest hair on my body charged with it. It was sensual without being sexual.

When Marc was finished I went to change back into my clothes; we all had to get to school for classes. I asked to see the drawings. They were expertly done. My favourite was the very first, standing with the front of my body exposed, the robe falling from my arms and down my back. He had captured so perfectly the familiar way I tilt my head, my chin slightly raised, my neck elongated, pieces of my hair falling gracefully around my face, the ripe swell of my hips and belly. If that was really me, I was beautiful. A goddess I didn’t believe existed anymore.

He offered to give the drawing to me and I refused it. I couldn’t tell my husband about the experience because I knew he would disapprove. I didn’t know what I would do with it; it wasn’t as if I could frame it and hang it in my home.

I never told my husband about this morning. I have never told anyone. Somehow I believe it still exists, the drawing of me being beautiful. Even if it is stored among many others, in a weathered black portfolio, tucked away in an attic beneath the dullness of dust. Somehow I believe that girl still exists somewhere, the mythological me.

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Nothing like corn fields, windmills and a gorgeous, puffy-cloud sky.

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Recipe of the Week:

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The Family Potato Salad

I'm risking disinheritance by sharing this with you. It's like Wilma Flintstone sharing Fred's secret Waterbuffalo handshake that he accidentally slipped her in an unguarded moment. To protect myself I've written it without my mom's secret ingredient, or my dad's. This is the way I make it myself, and it's incredibly good without the classified additions of either of my parents. (oypop edses, umcbreuc) Oh, geez, sorry about the typos there. My cat walked across the keyboard.

Yes, we learned this way of making potato salad during a trip to visit my aunt and uncle in Denmark, many years ago. They lived on a potato farm, and this is how the folks there made a cold salad with those piles of tubers. Over the years my folks have each tweaked it a little, and, of course, they both claim to make the best version. And they both do make the best version; I've never had a bite of either that I didn't love.

So, the grand picnic day of all picnic days is upon us this week (Happy Independence Day), and what better time to try a new potato salad. It couldn't be simpler, and because you use as much nonfat yogurt as you do mayonnaise, it's a wee bit healthier than most, too. According to some people, anyhow. I happen to believe mayonnaise is a healthy food. Trust me...this is delicious.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds of red potatoes, washed and cut in half
1 8 oz container of plain yoghurt
8 oz of mayonnaise
1 bunch of green onions, chopped (leave out the thickest of the green parts)
1 small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 T rice vinegar, or white vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Boil potatoes until just tender, no one likes mushy potatoes in their salad. Rinse in cold water just for a second, drain well, and add to a bowl. Add the vinegar, and then using a knife and fork, cut the potatoes into medium sized chunks, not too small. It's important to add the vinegar while the potatoes are still warm. I don't know why.

So then add in the parsley and green onions, the yoghurt and the mayo (and secret ingredients if you know them) Stir it up, adding salt and pepper to taste. I'm kind of preferring mine without any secret ingredients. It tastes clean and fresh and yummy. Keep it refrigerated until you serve it. Oh, and sometimes I like to sprinkle just a wee bit of cayenne pepper on top for colour and a little kick. Just a wee bit---my own secret ingredient.

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Photographs of the Week:

A Day in the Life

(of me)

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5:30 a.m. it's already becoming light.

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5:45 a.m. There is no possible way to do anything else but feed the critters, as soon as my feet leave the bed. They eat their wet food pack-style, like hungry wolves.

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6:00 a.m. Three pages of journal writing, every day, even if it's just writing "I have nothing to say" over and over again. And then a couple hours of work.

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8:00 a.m. Morning meeting with a friend.

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9:00 a.m. Bath time...my favourite time.

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9:30 a.m. Packing up to head for the office.

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9:45 a.m. Skyping with my son from my office in my woods, a real-time connection between Kiev, Ukraine and East Aurora, NY. How amazing and wonderful is that?

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12:00 p.m. Lunch in the kitchen with my duck.

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12:30 p.m. Washing the never ending dishes. How two people can create so many dishes, I have no idea.

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1:00 p.m. About to do my bank statement on the kitchen counter. Exciting, hey? Well, every thirty minutes...

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1:30 p.m. Cleaning up a mess that three of the cats made. This is the third time. I don't think I will ever be able to have houseplants again.

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2:00 p.m. Back outside to work, but had to make a new flower arrangement for my table, first.

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2:30 p.m. Felt a little rain, so brought my laundry in to fold.

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3:30 p.m. The only thing not so great about my office in the woods is that when it rains, and I have computer work, I have to come inside. Not for long, though. It was brief, only a tease of scattered raindrops.

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4:30 p.m. Afternoon walk at the farm.

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5:00 p.m. Still walking. It's an important time for me. I get most of my dilemmas solved, ideas fleshed out and, of course, new ideas, when I walk. Oh! Right after I took this photo, a bluebird flew out of the nesting box.

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5:30 p.m. Quick stop at grocery store.

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6:00 p.m. Catching up on reading while making dinner.

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6:15 p.m. Veggie hash browns. And an egg. Breakfast for dinner.

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6:45 p.m. Duck and her Coraline after dinner.

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7:00 p.m Cocktail hour in the woods with my just-turned-twenty-one daughter. We could hear the Buffalo Philharmonic playing at Knox Farm.

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Daily Bread:

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The Last Straw:

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Family Mystery: A Tale of Two Weekends

by Rick Ohler

A FUNNY THING happened at this year’s gentlemen’s fishing trip to Raquette Lake in the Adirondacks a few weeks ago.

Understand, gentle readers, that this is an annual weekend (our twenty-seventh year) where grown men, good friends, gather, ostensibly to fish, eat and drink (not necessarily in that order), but where the highlight of the proceedings is often the banter that ensues over three days. In a no-holds-barred approach, nothing is sacred to these fifteen cretins when it comes to busting on their buddies. With verbal agility that is frankly miraculous given the amount of intoxicants consumed, we engage in talk that is not only politically incorrect, but is also intentionally insensitive as regards gender, sexual orientation, reproductive matters, individual failings and shortcomings. Potty-mouthed bathroom humor, my mother would have called it. We are marksmen with linguistic artillery and ammunition, especially when the targets are so close at hand. There are a lot of laughs at others’ expense. Howard Stern wouldn’t last five minutes in this crowd. And if you think I’m here to apologize, think again. We don’t go by the acronym LAYYD (look at yourself, you’re disgusting) for nothing.

I am here to tell you what happened on Friday night of our weekend. After a long day of fishing, drinking and busting on each other, dinner was sort of coming together. Somehow guys started organizing and preparing food although we are strict about our rule that there be no schedules on these weekends, either written or implied. Usually food appears and is eaten, and then more appears, with each of us jumping in to prepare and serve something. Out of chaos, comes order, that sort of thing. This night, however, the food—steak, chicken, striped bass, mashed potatoes, salad, Italian bread—came together at the same time, a kind of miracle of spontaneous preparation—and we all—fifteen of us—sat down at the same time around one table, family style, no doubt for the first time in twenty-seven years. And one of our lot, Tim Lafferty, the most outwardly respectable of the bunch, actually said grace. It was a simple blessing, non-denominational, secular, acknowledging that this group of friends is special, a family.

I suspect that all of us were moved by the mysterious moment of fellowship, but as manly men, of course, we couldn’t admit it. All we knew for sure is that we would reconvene in one year to consider this mystery anew.

THE FOLLOWING WEEKEND would be another special one, even though it involved no fishing, only a little social drinking, more organized—one was even catered—meals, and notably civil conversation.

It was the triennial Ohler family reunion at Twin Lakes Villa, a clutch of cottages surrounding Little Lake Sunapee in New London, New Hampshire.

For this, our fifth triennial, sixty-some folks traveled from all over the continent—California, Arizona, Vancouver, New York City, Harrisburg, Boston, Portland, East Aurora. We ranged in age from eleven weeks to eighty-eight years old and spanned four generations.

Many of us barely know one another, and we have taken to wearing name tags that announce us in a Google-search way. Mine, for instance, said, “Rick Ohler>W.Richard Ohler, Jr. and Sue Ohler,” so it would be clear that I was the son of W. Richard Ohler, one of the four siblings responsible for these sixty-plus descendants and Sue, his wife, my mother. My daughter’s tag read, “Mariah Ohler>Rick Ohler>W. Richard Ohler, Jr. and Sue Ohler;” while my granddaughter’s explained, “Peyton Elizabeth Sarsfield>Mariah Ohler (Philip Sarsfield)>Rick Ohler>W. Richard Ohler, Jr. and Sue Ohler.” Such information certainly filled up the tags, but helped us avoid those awkward greetings where you ought to know the greet-ee’s name but come up empty.

It takes a while at these every-third-year events to sort out relatives into their appropriate slots. “So what are you doing these days?” or “Where are you living?” or, “Wow, is that your son? He’s so grown up,” are the questions of the hour. And I suspect that we know they are all shallow inquiries, meant to skirt the real questions, “Why have we all so anxiously anticipated this gathering since the day after the 2009 reunion?” and “What does it mean to be a family?”

Over the first day and night at Twin Lakes we settled into our rustic and charming houses, wandered the grounds to gawk at the granite boulders, pristine lake and signature birch trees and began to warm to each other.

It was the next morning, however, in the none-too-spacious kitchen at the main house that things really jelled. Breakfast—even a basic one of bacon and eggs, toast, juice and coffee—for sixty is a logistical challenge. It’s way too much for one or two cooks, and more than a few in that kitchen had sardine written all over it. Somehow, though, sixty-some good-natured folks, related by birth, marriage or association, served, ate, did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen for as good and orderly a breakfast as anyone could remember. And along the way the closeness made us, well, close.

“Can I help you crack those eggs?”

“Sure, jump in.”

“How many eggs do sixty Ohlers eat?”

“I think we just keep cracking them until someone tells us to stop.”

“Or until the hens go on strike.”

“So, you still doing the house painting thing?”

“Oh yeah, still at it. Only until I’m dead. Then I can retire.”

“You were doing something else, too, weren’t you? Seems I remember something like that.”

“Teaching, and trying to make the writing business go somewhere.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yup, got a book coming out soon. Should sell dozens, maybe hundreds. Probably make the bestseller list, in my house, anyway.”

“Hey, I work for the Westchester County Library, in acquisitions. I’ll put it on the list.”

“I didn’t know you were a librarian.”

“Lot of book/writer/teacher types in this tribe, aren’t there?”

“Does seem to be a trend. My dad sure as hell was. What about yours? Where does that come from?”

“Stinks I didn’t really know your dad. We kind of slipped up on the relative thing back then.”

“Yeah, Grandpa died before we knew much about him, and then my dad died, and your dad, and we lost track. Until we started doing this.”

From across the room, “Hey! You guys can lay off on the eggs. It’s a big group, but it ain’t the whole town.”

“Got it.” I said. “So cousin, talk to me. Do you suppose there’s something to this whole family characteristic business? Can you take a serious doctor-type Grandpa, and sweet—as-fleece Grandma, and add in a whole ton of in-laws, a bunch of new surnames—Thompson, Slaney, Gervais, Miller, Palmieri, Bliss, Hinman, Chanler—and have something that’s the kernel of a family? Like a quintessence? Is that too weird or what?”

“How bad did you want to come here?”

“I’ve been thinking about it since 2009. I couldn’t wait.”

“Me either. Why is that?”

“Family. What else?”

“Even though you don’t really know what that means.”

Well, we spent a marvelous weekend playing croquet, wiffleball, par-three golf; swimming, hiking, sitting on the porch, breaking eggs, cooking, doing dishes, sorting out cans and bottles for recycling, taking out the trash. And talking. And connecting. And wondering about ourselves. As near as I can figure, we had only half-a-dozen no-shows. Three of them were of the middle generation, living faraway, who simply couldn’t get here. A couple were spouses who opted out for reasons that shall remain their own. Nearly everybody else had made the trek, some at considerable expense.

On Saturday night we gathered in the big living room of the main house for the last time until 2015. It had been a full day: we buried our patriarch Uncle John Ohler, who had died earlier in the year at age 88, in a dignified but joyful graveside service. We remembered Aunt Carol and lifelong family friend Haffy Gould, who had left us since the 2009 triennial. We celebrated my cousin’s son Eli’s recent marriage to Amanda Rectenwald. And we welcomed Evelyn Jane Thompson and Elijah Underwood-Knowles, both born this year, the newest members of the Ohler extended family. I hummed a few bars of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”

We didn’t say grace as we had at the fishing trip dinner table, but we offered toasts to those present and past. And we toasted the mystery of family, the mysterious workings of the world that bring so many good-natured folks, connected by accidents of time, place and birth to breakfast-for-sixty-plus in New Hampshire. And we asked only that we meet to consider this mystery once again in 2015.

***
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The beauty of one seed head of grass stuns me sometimes.

***
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Lazy bones.

To nap or not to nap? That is never the question for my cats. I love sharing a photo or two of them each week with you. Not everyone has the endurance to live with five felines, so you can live vicariously with their antics through me :) I'm happy to take the punch for you.

Looking forward to hearing from you if you have some thoughts on what you read this week. Or if you try the potato salad. I wish I had made a double batch, that's all I can tell you. If you made a comment or sent an email for the last issue, I did get back to those of you who wrote toward the beginning of the week, and will reply to the rest of you tomorrow. I love getting your comments and emails. Please keep them coming.

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And, thank you, so much, for being here. See you next week!

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