Gravediggers

Folks familiar with the Appalachian Trail may know that the two hundred twenty odd mile section from Maryland to New Jersey is affectionately referred to as “Rocksylvania”. We now live in the Cumberland Valley within a few miles of the actual midpoint of The AT. The ribbon of trail nearest us runs about twenty thousand yards through as fertile a plain as you’ll find anywhere. And, because that stretch is pretty flat, it’s a welcomed break for hikers who have to navigate the steep, rough ridges bordering us South and North.

Of the thousands of lush acres which surround us there are only a handful you can’t farm. We live on 1.7 of those. On our little plot, the topsoil is mostly a cheap toupee over bald, dense clay. Rocks poke up everywhere among the walnuts and maples which have negotiated truces with – and root systems around – the Cambrian dolomites and limestone. There’s no easy digging anywhere on our property which I first confirmed three years ago when I snapped a shovel handle clean off replacing the mailbox post. And when I finally had to bury a cat last winter, it took me an hour and a half.

It was easier to dig graves in Connecticut. Everybody thinks the ground is rocky in New England and it is. But at our house there we had a sweet spot behind the old chicken coop where the soil was deep and loamy and full of worms. With an Ace Hardware spade (and a shoebox) you could put a cat in the ground forever in ten minutes. I planted three there.

Thirty years ago, when we moved into our little bungalow in Collinsville, CT, I was sure I would live in that house for the rest of my life. I imagined my own tomb in the basement as a memorial of my faithfulness to that little quarter acre and wondered simultaneously who’d be crazy enough to buy a house with a body buried under it. But, of course, we moved. And when I made my last sweep through that empty house I choked on a morsel of regret that I hadn’t been faithful to that place after all. It was the only moment, then or since, that I had any misgivings about leaving. But, for a few bitter seconds, I was as a bewildered Israelite: were there no more graves at home that I’m dragged away to die in a strange land? Exodus, 14:11.

It’s relaxing and contemplative to dig when the soil is soft and welcoming and you have rational dreams of a crop yield. But all the zen vanishes when you’re hacking through prehistoric sediment. My patient wife lost her appetite for a cut flower garden here after a season battling the unforgiving earth beside the house. Watching her sweat and scratch around I was reminded of the patience, grit and mulish persistence of nineteenth century farmers pulling stumps with oxen and dragging plowed boulders from fields on sledges. Or of the stunning wattage that same strain of farmers purged with the thousands of graves they dug down the road at Gettysburg: the armies suddenly gone, the bewildered residents of that town crawling out of basements to find their smoking July fields littered with the dead and dying. Men. Horses. Cattle. I try to imagine how long it would take to bury a three quarter ton ox with a shovel from the hardware store.

A year after the battle at Gettysburg, the staggering body counts were overwhelming available burial sites. So it fell to Union Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs to select a suitable site for an expansive new military cemetery to accommodate the endless demand. In an act of historic spite, Meigs chose a sprawling Virginia estate across the Potomac River from Washington D.C. – the appropriated home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Meigs, like Lee, was both a southerner by birth and a distinguished graduate of West Point. But Meigs was also staunchly anti-secessionist and despised Lee for a traitor. His choice of Lee’s estate as a place of final repose for Union war dead was intentionally provocative and entirely consistent with the scorched-earth extremism with which the Union ultimately prosecuted the war to its bitter conclusion. It was even Meigs’ intention to have the first grave dug in Mary Lee’s rose garden. Lee never returned to that Virginia homestead which we now know as Arlington National cemetery.

Not long after moving to Pennsylvania we visited an Amish farm with a strange out building next to the dairy barn: a concrete rectangle foundation about five feet high, open at one end with a pitched roof canopy, no walls and a dirt interior. Like a small outdoor ice-rink with the Zamboni doors missing.  It was a composter. Rather than bury old dairy cows when they die, these Amish simply toss them in the rink and cover them with a little manure and silage. Hard to believe but after a few months there’s barely any trace left. Simple. Relatively dignified. Eco-friendly. A reverse grave.

Two months ago, after a suitable Winter of mourning, we replaced our dead cat. The two of us drove over to a farm in Carlisle and kidnapped a couple of barn kittens from different litters. Cousins, probably. One was a runt small enough to fit in a teacup and he was so impossibly helpless that his earnest efforts at survival were a marvel of persistence. He reminded me of our early Republic.   And like our fragile democratic experiment, the kittens didn’t quit; they now seem almost invincible in their gymnastic self confidence.

It’s anybody’s guess where we’ll be when the time comes again for a spade and a shoebox. Canada maybe, depending on the outcome of the next civil war and how Reconstruction goes. At least the farmers in Gettysburg have backhoes now so the digging will be easier. Maybe congress will take a page from the Amish and convert Mar-a-Lago into a composting site for dead fascists. Anyway, I bought a new shovel at the hardware store. It has a steel handle.

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Spring

The dawns crawl north and we’re swung. Friend cold ebbs and with it the snow that covered so many crimes: our neighbor’s tuxedo cat where the snowplow tossed her months ago and the squirrel I murdered with my truck in January – both now publicly decomposing in mud up the road. Everything is ugly, ruined, fierce. Dead branches litter the place – abandoned pikes on a battlefield. Disheveled goldfinches rot gracelessly out of their green winter plumage. Carolina Wrens fight Chickadees to the death for a nest. Nap-angry bears stagger outside like zombies, thirsty and emaciated. Starved deer glean the same melting fields where they’ll be shot in the fall. Worm-slurping robins grow suddenly, alarmingly fat. The only joys left are fleeting gifts of lion March – high overcast with doomed flurry bursts and a neighbor’s wood smoke on the equinox. But buds yesterday. And shoots today. Very soon grim, overalled farmers will rip the place up and stink it with manure. And the flies will come. And the steaming horizon will vanish under corn.

The Busman’s Holiday


Recently, as I do every year at this time, I posted a shout-out on Facebook acknowledging the marathon challenge faced by clergy and church musicians during the four brutal weeks that make up the holiday gauntlet of Advent. It is a time of nearly unparalleled stress in overlapping professions where ritual performance art intersects with the divine (sometimes, depending on if you can get the incense lit and the organ tuned) and Murphy comes home to roost with his law.   

I haven’t seen it all, by any means, but I’ve seen enough. Usually from a perch in the choir or in a back pew enduring another children’s rendition of the Nativity with the rest of the dads who, reliably, had nothing to do with the production. The seasonal mayhem is manifested in ways both entirely unpredictable and utterly unsurprising. And all of it must be borne, if possible, with immeasurable and (largely) unacknowledged patience and good humor by priests, deacons, organists and choirmasters from here to the ends of Christendom.

I’m not sure what it is about the run-up to Christmas that invites Disaster but it must be pretty seductive because She shows up on schedule every year. I mean, if I had a nickel for every acolyte who fainted in a church on Christmas Eve I’d have retired ten years ago. It’s always a heart-skip when something goes haywire but it’s also not the slightest bit shocking when it does. And, in a strange way, it’s the awareness of impending and inevitable chaos that adds special poignancy to the season. For me anyway.

The potential for disaster and unscripted drama is limitless. A wrong page is ribboned and a robotic lector gamely ploughs straight through a reading from Pentecost. The consecrated host and the organist’s shoes go missing. Underhydrated acolytes topple like bowling pins. An unhinged thurible scatters hot coals among startled congregants. Tiny choristers puke quietly in their stalls. Pew candles ignite scarves and hair product. Hired soloists, carpooling, take the wrong exit off the Turnpike. The timpanist arrives full of bourbon. The organ springs an untameable g-sharp cipher. A frayed pageant angel bursts into exhausted, inconsolable tears. The power goes out. The fire department shows up. The police file a report with your name in it.

Through all of this chaos wade the heroes – the clergy and the underpaid musicians who almost literally throw themselves at each Advent with fervent, renewed hope for and low expectations of mankind. It’s an annual demonstration of grit and courage in a season of miracles. It is a magnificent display of faith, endurance and high pain thresholds.

And here’s why they do it. Sometimes, just when you think things can’t possibly get worse or weirder, it starts to make sense. Your plastic sheathed candle is lighted, your toddler is finally asleep on your lap, Christmas cookie vomit drying slowly in her hair. Your mother-in-law’s scarf fire is extinguished, the acrid smell of scorched lambs wool mingling with the incense. The head of the altar guild’s grand niece, visiting from Bismarck, ND, steps up on the altar and begins to play Silent Night on her junior flute. She’s a smidge flat. But she’s earnest and focused and her breathy rendition echos in the quiet church. It’s perfectly imperfect. Just like us, with any luck at all.  

And so, like lots of people I know, I both love and dread this season – with all of its anticipation and anxiety, promise and futility, trial and error. The ritual celebration of the tiny baby miracle is repeated all over the world with enthusiasm and hope, ever striving to honor the perfect with whatever pantomime of perfection we can muster. That we fall woefully short every single time dims not the courage of our church leaders. They shepherd us through our clumsy dance, patiently helping to choreograph our celebrations with whatever meager gifts we have to offer them and each other.  Their fire extinguishers, real and metaphorical, primed and ready.

So, priests, deacons, organists and music directors, we salute you. We honor your sacrifice. And we think forward fondly to December 26th when, if there is any justice on this earth, you’ll be curled up on the couch watching a hockey game with the sound off, with a fire you intended to start crackling safely in the hearth, with the Kings College choir rebroadcasting on the radio and with empty chocolate wrappers strewn at your feet.

Home Alone

pitcher

The last time my wife left me alone for a week things unraveled pretty quickly.  The standard eat-when-you’re hungry, don’t shave, wear pajamas the whole time stuff wasn’t the half of it.  Among the low-lights:  I primed and started a temperamental chainsaw in the kitchen, fired a gun in the house as an experiment (I know) and practiced a rudimentary form of self-accompanied Karaokee  with piano.  In my pajamas (see above).  And I work from home.  Tip for future employers reading this – pick the other guy.

So when Audrey left for a week this time I saw trouble brewing and had a little talk with myself.  Structure, buddy.  Food pyramid. Hygiene. Leave the reptile brain in the shower.  Jesus, TAKE a shower.  Pretend you’re on Candid Camera.  So far?  So good.

Let’s jump to Tuesday – day two unsupervised.  I finish work, hit the gym, bathe, and then pursue a safe and healthy end-of-day activity.  Evening diversion?  Harrisburg Senators game at charming FNB park on City Island.

Thunderstorms having passed through just ahead of game time, the temp is a perfect 76 degrees with a dry, soft breeze from right field.  I arrive four minutes before the National Anthem (male duet, standard bass-line harmony, crowd appreciative).  Announced attendance of 2,850 (about 40% of capacity)  seems a generous estimate.  First pitch is  on the dot of 7:00 pm.  Play Ball.

I reserved in advance and paid for with my credit card an aisle seat behind third base and four rows behind the visitors’ dugout.  I could’ve paid next to nothing for bleacher seats and then sat pretty much anywhere I wanted but I’m not a starving grad student at Fenway (anymore) and I wanted to do this like an adult.  So I studied the seating chart and then plunked down (figuratively) seventeen bucks for a spot in foul-ball territory where I knew I’d have to keep my head on a swivel and pay attention to every pitch.  Think Structure here.

The Harrisburg Senators Baseball Club is the double-A minor league affiliate of the Washington Nationals.  They play in the Western division of the Eastern league which fields twelve teams from Maine to Virginia to Ohio.  It’s a ride-the-bus league and populated with very good, very young players who have sifted up through the high school and college ranks.  And they really are kids, mostly: early to mid twenties making maybe $1,500 a month plus meal money in-season and hoping to jump the long line of wannabes into the majors.  You can see the big-time from here.  But this is also where dreams die.  And hot dogs are $2.50.

On this perfect Summer Tuesday night in Central Pennsylvania I am celebrating my temporary bachelorhood in the most authentic and American way I know how.  I’m people-watching.  Down and to my right, in the first row, is a young dad with a baby not more than a month-old.  He has two other elementary school-aged kids in tow also but they are mostly absent and running around on the mezzanine.  The infant is impossibly tiny and fragile and I’m horrified that this dude has intentionally put her in harms way.  It’s all I can think about.  When the first pitch of the game is fouled off and bounces three feet to my left and my worst fears are nearly realized I’m overcome with anxiety.  I want to grab the baby and make a run for it.  But the dad is unfazed.  He’s calmly feeding the infant a bottle and checking his cell phone at the same time.  In flip-flops.  No mom in sight – probably her night off with her girlfriends.  I’m glad she’s not here to worry with me.  I suddenly envy this guy his nonchalance.

To my right are a group of retired gentlemen in cargo shorts and button-down short-sleeved shirts.  They are having a supper of beer and brats and one of them is carefully scoring the contest in his program with a fountain pen.  My dad used to do that.  I estimate these guys might have seen around five thousand baseball games between the four of them over the last sixty something years.  They are relaxed and happy, enjoying the game and each other.  Their spouses are here too and also sitting together but apart from the men.  I think of mosque  worship.  The women are chirpy and laughing and completely disinterested in the game.  Or at least I think so until one of them aggressively berates the home plate umpire for his stingy strike zone.  Go figure.

In the outfield bleachers a whole section is taken up by a boisterous group of black children of middle-school age.  They are all in matching blue shirts and they are having a time.  I guess some kind of camp outing.  They try to engage the left fielders on both teams without success until the visiting player finally tosses them a retrieved a foul ball.  They go nuts and it’s the most beautiful moment of the night.  I get a lump in my throat.  Later, around mid game and probably under day-camp curfew, this joyful mob files out of the park and I am very sorry to see them go.  I listen to them laughing and singing all the way to the parking lot and after that the stadium is very subdued.

I decide to stretch my legs and so I wander around the food court a bit and check out the field view from a couple of different vantage points.  This is a beautiful ballpark.  On a pretty little island in the middle of the Susquehanna river.  I get a hot dog.  And then another one.  The sun is setting and the vibe changes to night-game.

By the time I return to my seat, the infant is asleep in her father’s arms, oblivious to her peril and the visiting pitcher is on the ropes.  It’s not the lanky-22-year-old-righthander-from-Tennessee’s night. He’s given up two runs in each of the first two innings and now, with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth he runs the count full on the Harrisburg shortstop.  His next pitch is a knee-high fastball which the Senators infielder turns on and instantly deposits into the right field pavilion for a grand slam.  Ouch.

The pitcher’s shoulders slump.  He pounds his mitt and tugs at the bill of his cap and scuffs the dirt on the mound with his left cleat during the home-run trot.  He gets the next batter out but the damage is done.  He gives up another run in the fifth before he’s yanked.  I watch him try to keep his disappointment under control during the long, lonely walk back to the dugout but his agony is palpable.  Nine runs – eight earned – on ten hits with a walk and three strikeouts in four-and-a third innings.  Not the kind of day at the office you want if promotion is on your agenda.  The lazy, happy summer baseball crowd vibe is a weird contrast to this kid’s painful night on the mound.  He needs a hug but I doubt he’s going to get one.

Summoning my best imitation of an adult, I decide to head home after the sixth inning.  It’s dark now, the Senators have a comfortable 9-5 lead, the camp kids have gone and left the park quiet and I have to work in the morning.  It’s a ten minute walk back across the Walnut Street footbridge to collect my car, stowed in the St. Stephen’s Cathedral parking lot.  I stop once and give ten bucks to a pilgrim holding a “homeless vet” sign.  He thanks me and promises to buy himself a hot meal.  I’m touched that he feels the need to validate my gift and that he probably lied to make me feel better about it.  I hope things get better for him or at least that he has a dry place to sleep.  I think about the young pitcher from Tennessee and hope he has a Plan B working.  And I remember to acknowledge just how very lucky I am not to have to worry about my next meal or what the hell happened to my fastball.

I listen to the rest of the game in the car on the way home.  The visiting Bowie (MD) Baysox stage a remarkable late-game comeback but fall to the Senators 13-10 in spite of it.  I experience brief regret that I didn’t stick around to see the finish but I’m happier to be home safe and on schedule for a rational bedtime.  Tuesday is in the books, I survive it unsupervised, without doing anything noticeably dangerous or stupid and I’m inordinately proud of myself.   One day at a time.

Persistence

image1Early morning in early Spring.  I am struck by the perfection of my placement under layers of blankets.  I reach over with my left hand and the other half of the bed is smooth and cool.  A perfect metaphor for its departed previous occupant who, I surmise, is up-and-at-’em already.  Probably out for a walk or curled up downstairs in the big leather chair by the fireplace writing something I’ll shake my head in wonder at later.  Mainly, though, Audrey’s absence means the coffee has percolated and the cat’s had her breakfast.  And, sure enough, the fed cat appears, launches herself onto the bed and, ignoring the empty acreage, sets up shop on my shoulder, purring ostentatiously.  I pretend she was never born but a ten pound tuna-breathing chainsaw is hard to ignore.  I’ve got to get up.

Many decades ago and for a brief period I regularly performed a credible imitation of an athlete.  Where that actor went I couldn’t tell you but I miss him now.  I shift the cat and with painful deliberation coordinate the muscles required to effect a launch.  I actually have to hook a foot on the edge of the mattress to create enough leverage to heave my torso vertical.  I think of the “better half” who earlier slipped so effortlessly from the covers that I didn’t even notice.  I contrast her graceful escape with the preposterous flailings of her rhinoceros husband who, in terms of displacement anyway, is two-thirds of the marriage.   But I’m up.  And suddenly angry at my decrepitude.  I bear weight.  Both knees pop.  I scratch my ear and hear clearly the ruined sinews of my right shoulder grinding.  The cat slips under the covers and on to the warm spot I have surrendered.  Like a hermit crab.  Our little pas de deux and her one job – getting Glenn up – completed, she settles in for an all day nap.  I hate her.

The stairs are a chore.  My knees scream on each one.  I get to the bottom and only then discover that I’ve left my glasses and my iPad on my desk upstairs.  I wince back up and down again only slightly limbered by the exercise.  Audrey is gone.  To work  I now realize on Saturday at a job exponentially harder than mine.  Our coffee, brewed in the pre-dawn, is now cold.  I microwave a cup and settle on the futon to skim through Facebook and the local news.  A shooting in Harrisburg.  A Turnpike fatality.  A local college in shocked mourning at the sudden death of a Sophomore.  Three separate and heartbreaking awfuls.  I purposely ignore the day’s fresh presidential election obscenities and skip straight to the hockey scores.  No Canadian teams in the NHL playoffs for the first time in 46 years.  I pout, involuntarily.

Today it takes three cups of bad coffee to get me moving.  I trade pajamas for sweats and wander out back to our wooded lot for a look around.  A Cooper’s hawk has spent the last several weeks constructing an elaborate nest about fifty feet up a gnarly walnut tree.  Now his full time job is convincing a female to join him in it.  The other day I waddled out to check on his progress and inadvertently chased away his date who flapped off in a startled hurry.  The male glared at me, fuming mad.  I felt terrible.  Today he’s alone in a pine tree and gives me a sharp bark and the stinkeye.  He loathes me.  I take his picture and slink back into the house.

I have some business emails to sift through and some significant work to do on an unfinished project I’ve been promising my boss for a month.  Instead I go to the gym.  Planet Fitness.  Ten bucks a month.  It’s crowded, as usual, with no-nonsense Pennsylvanians who are working out like it’s their job.  No chitchat.  No bullshit.  Just exercise.  I grab a mat and a corner of floor space and labor through my routine of age-appropriate calisthenics:  situps, pushups, chinups.  Repeated until I see spots and nausea sets in.  A tiny girl next to me is doing some improbable yoga, contorting in amazing shapes.  She has on headphones and I imagine she is listening to a Haydn symphony.  Joyful and brave.  I want to tell her to enjoy her body while she can.  Before she has to hook her foot on the mattress to get out of bed.  I think of the murdered boy in Harrisburg, the teenager crushed when her car flipped over on the Turnpike and the college student whose suicide bewildered her friends.  I want to tell this yoga girl to be careful out there.  And to wear her seatbelt.

Next is a half hour on the eliptical.  It’s knee-friendly and a good alternative to running which is on the lengthening list of things I can’t do anymore.  There is a sturdy, handsome woman about my age on the machine next to mine.  She’s worked up a good sweat.  Her face is set, determined, focused.  She too is listening to music.  Tom Petty I hope.  And not Beyonce or something.  I wonder if she knows about the dead children on the news.  She could be the mother of one.  I think about the parents of those kids.  If they still get up, make coffee, read the paper, go to the gym.  The unbearable agony of persisting.  It scares me.

I finish my workout.  At home I wander back into the woods and there are the hawks –   two of them.   Arrangements have been made, apparently.  They fly off when I arrive but not very far.  They perch at the edge of our woods, about fifty yards apart.  The male barks at me.  He tells me they’re not going anywhere.  I close my eyes and communicate telepathically.  I tell them I’m not going anywhere either.  And that the last time I checked Audrey and I owned this nesting area.  They’ll need to get used to us.  I tell them how cool I think they are.  The conversation makes me feel better.  Like I’ve made some progress with them.

Back in the house I find the cat still asleep on my side of the bed.  I scratch her head and she yawns.  I ask her, if it’s not too much trouble, could she catch me a mouse later.  I want to make a housewarming gift to my hawk couple.  She rolls her eyes and goes back to sleep.

Merry Christmas

We are pointed in the general direction of the 7am American Airlines commuter out of Harrisburg, headed to Chicago this very early morning where, if all goes according to plan, we should connect to San Francisco and a week-long visit with our daughters up in wine country. This is the first Christmas in my memory not spent at home (or at Audrey’s mother’s in Maine) and it feels strange and wrong to be standing in a security line waiting to get probed. We’re working on less than four hours of sleep having collapsed around midnight after three Christmas Eve services at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. I am travel-anxious, grumpy, disoriented and, at this point, impossible to please. I expect the gate agents all to be wearing Santa hats and exuding special holiday cheer as if preparing for a pageant but they are simply sleepy and businesslike. Likewise the security folks are their usual dour, no-nonsense selves repeating their useless blue-gloved pantomime of protecting us from evildoers. They look alternately bored, aggressive and deeply sad. I should feel sorry for them but I don’t because they are about to judge me and confiscate my toothpaste and I am actually getting angry standing in my socks with my belt in my hand like a prisoner about to trade in his street-clothes for stripes. But then Audrey and I are each handed a laminated card for “expedited” boarding and are whisked through the metal detector on a gust of white privilege leaving other darker, shoeless travelers to the vagaries of the x-ray machine. I’m now annoyed that, in my paunchy middle age, I’ve been deemed un-dangerous and I squelch an alarming instinct to start a fistfight just to prove them wrong. But, of course, they are dead right. And just doing their jobs. I remind myself for the umpteenth time that I should strive to be much more compassionate and a nicer guy generally and that I am married to the Episcopal Bishop of Central Pennsylvania and if anybody knew how reliably and relentlessly pessimistic I really am just how much harder that would make her job. It doesn’t help. I need a distraction and I need to calm the hell down and suddenly, out of nowhere, this Christmas morning I am diverted by the oddest thought. What would it be like if Jesus worked for Homeland Security?

If Jesus were a TSA agent, he’d confiscate that 1911 Colt .45 automatic you forgot was hiding in the side pocket of your carry-on bag and he’d give you a sour look. But he’d let you keep your grandfather’s pocket knife and your nail clippers. He’d pretend not to notice the joint you forgot was at the bottom of your purse and which you will be delighted to find on excruciating day three of your visit to in-laws. He’d know you swapped out the contents of your miniature shampoo bottle for bourbon because the thought of spending nine bucks on a drink in the airport makes you homicidal and he’d simply whisper a warning not to mix it with the Valium you’ve been hoarding for this trip. He’d know you were going to visit your sick mother – maybe for the last time – and he’d give you a little card which would tell you exactly what to say to her. He’d unblock your two-year-old’s sinuses so the cabin pressure wouldn’t make her cry and he’d change your perfume so that it would remind your next random seat-mate of his favorite elementary school teacher fifty-seven years ago. Jesus would tell you to be patient with the crabby flight attendant in coach because her shoes irritate her corns, tell you to pass on the airplane food, slip you a meal voucher and command you to order the house special pizza at Wolfgang Puck’s in the O’Hare terminal because it is surprisingly good and you deserve it. Most of all he’d tell you to relax, try to enjoy the journey and to forgive all, not just some of the trespasses. And he’d smile and look you right in the eye and wish you Happy Holidays because, as he’d be the first to admit, it’s not all about him.

I feel better already. Merry Christmas.

Thank You

Audrey and I were recently privileged to attend the wedding of our next door neighbors, Criste and Tyler. Audrey officiated which meant I got to crash as her plus-one. Perks for clergy spouses are few but this was a treat: lovely couple, perfect weather, perfect setting in the alpine glory of Northern New Hampshire, lovely families, amazing friends, tearful toasts. It was pretty amazing.

And here’s the best part. We got thank you notes for showing up. I know, right? And these weren’t just any thank you notes. These were thank you notes that make you want to send a thank you note for the thank you note. If you know what I mean.

And that got me thinking. Audrey generally writes the thank you notes for the two of us. She is a very thoughtful and gracious person, has nice left-handed penmanship and owns stationery. So…her job.

I am not known for my grace or my penmanship but I am keenly aware of the very many things for which I should be thankful. And right now, on the eve of our pack-up-and-move to Pennsylvania, I am thankful for our time here. In Connecticut. So here goes.

Thank you, Connecticut:

Thank you for graduating me from your schools (in spite of myself). Thank you for my college roommates, who taught me Family 101 from memory. Thank you for introducing me to the love of my life. Thank you for employing us all. Thank you for your Hockey (and for letting me try on Gordie Howe’s skates once-upon-a-time). Thank you for helping us raise three beautiful children. Thank you for letting us jump off Town Bridge and into the amazing Farmington river. Thank you for patient local police, who rarely arrested us. Thank you for the Atheneum, the Hartford Symphony, the New Britain Museum of American Art, Voce, and Joyful Noise. Thank you for inviting us to hike your Blue Trails, for The Mark Twain House, the Beecher family, Heublein Tower and Sessions Woods. Thank you for amazing neighbors who never once complained about our property devaluation schemes: when we parked our old truck on our front lawn, when our loud parties spilled outside, when we built huge fires, when we owned a duck. Etc. Thank you to The Episcopal Church here which unflinchingly welcomed and nurtured us in faithful community (and to all the church music directors who let me crash their choirs). Thank you for your bald eagles, brown trout, red-tailed hawks, coyotes, bobcats, hummingbirds, foxes, black bears, otters, heron, owls, snapping turtles, chickadees, woodpeckers, river rats, whales, sharks, stripers and bluefish. Thank you for my Subaru. Thank you for our craftsman bungalow. Thank you for our amazing mechanic. And carpenter. And plumber. And dentist. And cat sitter. And nephews and nieces. And brothers and sisters (in law). And tattoo artists.

In no particular order.

Thank you, Connecticut. Thank you very, very much. For everything.

Pennsylvania? Here we come.

Sent from my iPad