Stolen Fire Pit

We don’t see a lot of other people these days, at least in person. But we did find a workaround to help. My son had a friend over not too long ago, sort of. They hung out at the end of our long driveway, a good distance apart, but enough to have a long conversation. That worked well to get in some real face time. We have no close neighbors so it was just the two of them.

Not long after that we had their whole family over. The second time they came over we hauled our metal fire pit to the end of the driveway and put that between us. They were on the road side and we were on the house side and it was enough to have a shared experience. After they left we snuffed the fire and pulled the pit off to the side and went back to the house.

My daughter tried this with friends as well. We had three or four fires this way. Then my daughter had a plan to do it one more time. We grabbed some wood and matches and water to put the fire out at the end and headed down the driveway. But we got there and the fire pit seemed, well, missing. Hadn’t we left it right there? We had. It was gone.

There was a pile of cold wood coals. The fire pit was gone, as was the grate that we had set off to the side. Someone had come to our house, dumped the ashes, grabbed the pit with its grate, and taken it for themselves. We were a bit dumbfounded. Who would do that? Especially right now? I mean, I know people steal stuff, but to take it while we are home? During the day? That’s bold.

Missing the fire pit isn’t too much of a problem. It is just a thing, albeit one that brought a lot of joy. My daughter and friends had a fire right on the gravel of the driveway that night. In fact, we have a second metal fire pit. Years ago my wife and I both bought one to give to each other for Christmas. Hers was better so we have had been using that one. I pulled out the second one from the basement and, after way too much assembly, we have another one to use, although we have yet to christen it.

The problem is that someone stole this object that made a big difference during these days of isolation. It was a symbol of how we might come together even when we can’t come together like we would at another time. It allowed for real sharing, not virtual sharing–light across distance. Plus it was a gift, and we had shared many fires with many other people over the years. For someone to just take that? That ain’t right.

Luckily we do have a back-up. I guess we won’t be leaving it at the end of the driveway, however. And I hope that the one that disappeared ends up causing some joy for others, even if it is a soured joy. I hope the sourness wears off, and true enjoyment can be had from our old fire pit. That theft has put a ding in a lonely time for us, so I hope it can take a ding out of someone else’s.

Bread and Fire

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It was Saturday. I had time. So I baked some bread. And it was light and fluffy. Bread flour, that does the trick, I tell you. All that extra gluten stretches things out. Like magic. A big round fluffy loaf of goodness. Hot and fresh and delish. It went well with the soup I made. I put kale in the soup. Trying to be trendy? Nope. It just works in a vegetable soup. So, yeah, fresh bread and hot soup. Can’t beat it.

We lit up a fire outside Friday night. All summer I was thinking it would be great to have a fire in our fire ring outside. Look out over the dark field, watch the stars, flames dancing, sparks drifting up. All that romantic business. But the sun sets late in the summer. Start a fire just before dark and you’re up until 11:00. Some of us have to go to work in the morning.

But this time of year the sun sets much earlier. So crackling flames while we  hang out and listen to the coyotes sing? That’s a good deal. We did smell a skunk that night, but we talked loudly enough we hoped to keep it away. Apparently we did.

Saturday we cranked up the fire pit again. It was windy, but at least that kept the flames alive the whole time. We nibbled on Halloween-themed Oreos, talked about summer and Christmas and school and traveling, and we watched the stars pop in and out from the behind the clouds that were whipping across the sky.

It was so much fun that when friends unexpectedly came over on Sunday night we lit a fire one more time. We polished off those Oreos, and the bread, and laughed under a starless sky. We wore jackets. Some of us had to go to work in the morning so were were not out there too late. But three nights in a row with the comfort of a fire on a beautiful night? Stellar.

Dino S. Aur

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Several years ago the dinosaur came. He lived with some friends but we helped him to find his way into curious locations at their house when we visited. At some point he ended up in a curious location at our house. He has been tucked under blankets and buried in a flower bed. He keeps coming around.

When he ended up here, our duty was to make sure he made it back to their house, and vice versa. One time he was mailed to us baked into a cake. He did not fare so well and had to go into physical therapy. This was documented in a photo book. He came with us on a trip to Utah and joined us in all our adventures, including a zip line, hiking, mountain biking, a trip to get ice cream. He got a girlfriend on that trip. Those adventures were documented in a series of Facebook posts.

The topper to that series was the flight home. We asked the crew if we could take a photo of them with the dinosaur. They did us one better. They took Dino and a camera into the cockpit and, once we were airborne, took a video of Dino and his partner flying the plane. Sweet.

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The last time he left us he dramatically flew from the car as I exited our friends’ driveway. When we next went to visit them he ended up hiding in the glove box of our car for the ride home. Now he is with us again. I am documenting his life in Vermont (Girlfriend status? Couldn’t tell you) on Instagram. Follow him at Dino.S.Aur. Let’s see what happens.

On the Lake for a Week

Leaving the Island, Heading Home, Looking Back

Leaving the Island, Heading Home, Looking Back

When I was in high school I read an essay called Return to the Lake.  I remember that it was a good read, although I couldn’t tell you who wrote it, and I remember that I, along with some other folks, visited Lake Winnepesaukee soon after reading it.  The essay was essentially about visiting, as an adult, a lake that had had meaning when the writer was younger.  I returned to my own lake this past week.

We all went, this nuclear family of mine.  We swam and swam and ate and swam some more.  My children love the place, that place being Three Mile Island Camp.  It is an Appalachian Mountain Club camp where I worked twenty years ago.  I loved it then.  It had a huge impact on my life.  It still is pretty good.

We stayed in a couple of tiny adjacent rustic cabins right on the lake.  I got up every morning, looked out at the still water for ten minutes or so, laid my glasses on the dock, and slipped into the water.  I felt cool and calm.  Some mornings I swam with loons.  One morning I swam in the rain.  Then I climbed back to the small porch and waited for my wife and my children to waken.

We had little to do all day.  Meals are prepared by the staff and they do the clean-up.  The cabins have no electricity, although the main house where family style meals are served does.  We played and swam and rested and spent time with friends.  We ate at the appropriate times.  When it rained we hung out on the porch and drank tea and chatted while the children played games inside.  Life is pretty good like that.

Home today we cranked out laundry and mowed the lawn and picked the abundant vegetables from out garden.  Check this out:

A Few Veggies Ripe After a Week

A Few Veggies Ripe After a Week

We ate salad and corn on the cob (local but not ours) and blueberries (we even had some of those ripe!) and veggy burgers for dinner.  We looked out over the field and decided it is as good as looking out over a lake.  It was hot.  If we were still on the lake we would have just jumped in the drink to cool off.

The air has cooled now.  The children are off to bed early.  I am happy to be home.  I could have stayed longer but, like Christmas, experiencing it only once every year increases its appeal and its value.  If we lived there year round we couldn’t have this amazing garden.  We will return next year to swim and to play and to rest.  We have some of that to do around here in the remaining days of summer.  And a little work to do as well.

Once we get enough work done, we can return to the lake once again.  And we will love being there all over again.

Holiday Cards Again

We got our holiday cards in the mail early this year–so early, in fact, that many people who received them have commented that ours was the first they received.  Huzzah for our gang.  But we have received few.  I have been curious about this so here are my theories why we are not getting those cheery holiday greetings in the numbers we once did:

Theory 1:  Our cards suck as badly as my wife suggested-without-saying-out-loud they do.  She did not get a chance to approve the final version before I ordered them, so maybe my eye for the appropriateness of our photos or layout is truly poor.  Those who received them, even if they had considered sending us one, were offended by the contrast of the red background against the color of the beach foam in photo #2, and opted to put us on their naughty list.  Hence, no card.

Theory 2:  OK our cards don’t suck so badly; I was just reading into my wife’s initial reaction because of my deepest fears of being accepted by her, still, after all these years.  However, red is a color that makes people angry.  So everyone who received a card from us is angry that we got ours out so early and they did not.  “Why do those people have all that time on their hands that they can deal with holiday cards in frikkin November?” they ask and there we are, off their list.

Theory 3:  People hate us.  After all those years of pretending, they finally have had enough.  Obama got elected.  Gas prices are down.  Ben and Jerry’s is offering a peach flavored ice cream in December, for cripes sake.  With all the good news, why keep up the charade any longer?

Theory 4:  People love us.  They love us so much that they understand the turmoil we face when receiving holiday cards.  Should we hang the cards on the wall?  Should we spread them across the desk?  Should be put them in a festive basket to flip through in idle moments?  And what do we do with them after the holidays?  Should we recycle them?  Can we recycle those photo cards?  And what will people think if they find out we kept someone else’s and not theirs?  “They don’t need that extra stress,” our friends think, “so I just won’t send them a card this year.”

Theory 5:  People are finally catching on to our wasteful society.  We print the cards, send them great distances using gads of fossil fuels, then enjoy them for only a short time.  And it isn’t just holiday cards.  In their new-found awareness of our throwaway culture, our family and friends are cancelling magazine subscriptions, calling to get off catalog mailing lists, and threatening the Geico gecko with snakes and dogs if he sends any more unsolicited mail.  It isn’t personal.  It’s just wasteful.

Theory 6:  It’s the economy.  I know gas prices are down but the stock market is, too.  Since most people depend on the value of equities for their daily income, they suddenly have half what they did last year at this time.  With General Motors on the verge of collapse and Toyota facing its first loss in 70 years, who can afford $1.95 for a holiday card to some schmucks they haven’t seen in how long?  Plus there’s that 42 cent stamp to slap on the envelope.  Come on people. Be a little sensitive here.

Theory 7:  While we were not paying attention, all of our friends and family became the top players at Goldman Sachs.  About 50 people each earned $20 million dollars there in 2006.  We sent about 5o holiday cards.  If all of our cards went to those people, then they are not earning those same salaries any longer.  So, duh, they can’t afford to send us cards this year.  I feel bad for them, but I guess I understand.  Only, why don’t you tell somebody when you start making that much dough?  Or when you stop making that much dough?

Theory 8, the Reality Theory:  People are just busy.  I get it that sending cards is easy to put off.  I get it that the holidays sneak up.  I get it that the kids keep asking for another snack when, for gods’ sake, they just had a snack.  Life keeps going, even with people like us demanding those once-a-year updates.  Why do you think I made sure to get them out so early?  If I had waited, the arguments about why you can’t have another candy cane or just one more of those foiled wrapped balls even though that weird chewy christmas tree shaped gummi thing really was kind of small would be too distracting for me to even think about that crap.

At this point I have yet to test any of these theories.  Once I get around to employing the scientific method and figuring out which one, if any, is the right one, I will report back.  But I am guessing I won’t get to that until after the holidays.

Back to Back Birthdays

Yesterday we went to a birthday party out in Middlesex.  It was high quality.  The weather was fine, albeit a little cold, so sledding on the crusty snow was the main event when we arrived.  As far as I know no one got seriously hurt, the runaway sleds were all tracked down, the puppy didn’t bite anyone hard enough to draw blood, and all of the hot chocolate was consumed.  The adults in the party were even offered the choice of peppermint schnapps (for the hot chocolate) or scotch whiskey (for the eggnog).  Fun was had by all.

Eventually things moved indoors.  We gathered at the foot of both the twenty foot tall Christmas tree (no joke) and the indoor climbing wall.  This same living room also offered a mountain view with what couldn’t have been a more perfect sunset.  Cake was then to be had with messy faces all around the children and we were off down the greasy hill in the dark.  We stopped to eat in Richmond at On the Rise Bakery to sample their expanded menu.  Showers for the children topped off a grand winter (fall, technically) day.

Today we were off to a morning party, north to Winooski instead of east this time.  It was a different affair, yet equally rewarding for the bounty of child foibles and affectionate commentary.  These youngsters had the opportunity, after various healthy snacks (really–bagels and carrots and pears were eaten with happy abandon) to smash a pinata.  That took some doing.  Apparently the construction phase of the pinata was dominated by fears that these small yet enthusiastic children would tear into the thing with so much gusto that it would spill its goods on the first swing.  Multiple layers of paper mache helped to ease these fears, yet the choice of the large wooden spoon (larger than most wooden spoons, but still, a wooden spoon, not a broom handle or a bat or something with more leverage) and the reduced swing area  in the low-ceilinged basement meant multiple turns for each child yielded zero treats on the floor.

A couple parents took some swings, the second of them sending the top half of the spoon caroming through the crowd and skittering across the basement floor.  After some “whoa”ing, a search for a baton substitute yielded a hatchet, a two-by-four, and finally, a small square scrap of lumber, just right for small hands.  That, ultimately, with more parental aid, did the trick.  Candy and prizes poured forth and an orderly retrieval took place.

Both of these birthday events meant good fun for the children (friends, some old and some new, as well as new toys to check out, and plenty of kid-friendly eats) and quality time for the adults.  I spend too little time in the company of adults in a social setting.  I have always been less a social creature than many, but time to bat around ideas and share stories is pretty key.  Getting in some good conversation and humor helped energize me.  The schnapps might have helped a little at the first party, and the two extra cups of coffee (it had whipped cream and cinnamon!) at the second may have helped oil the social gears.  But I think I did it pretty much by myself.

I made friends all by myself!  See what I’m saying?  Even my everyday language has turned into kid-speak.  I really do need to make sure I get out more.