Hiking, May 2014

Stone wall at Notchview in Windsor, MA

A stone wall at Notchview in Windsor, MA

A week or so ago, I went hiking at Notchview in Windsor, MA, a property maintained by The Trustees of Reservations. It’s a beautiful, 3000+ acre area at about 2000 ft elevation, open year-round to the public for hiking and skiing. It’s a mix of rolling pastoral fields and mossy woods of red spruce, birch and hardwoods.  The hiking is very easy and relaxing and it’s a fantastic place to go and think while you wander (although I recommend a map and compass, the network of paths crisscrosses a lot at it isn’t always well marked; I’ve gotten turned around more than once).

This was the first time I’d been there in a few years and I was surprised by the extent of some of the clearing projects that are underway. I tried to do some research and I guess there was a major ice storm in 2008 that did a lot of damage to the trees. It looked like some of the downed and topped trees were damaged more recently, but I haven’t found any records of big blow-downs or microbursts that may have caused damage though that’s what some spots looked like. I understand the need to clear felled trees that obstruct paths, the need to do trail maintenance and selective clearing to provide new trails, but what disheartened me was a large area that appeared to be being cleared with huge, industrial-strength brush cutters (as evidenced by damage to the surrounding trees and branches and stumps that looked mangled, like they’ve been ripped apart and not just cut down).

I don’t understand or like this method of clearing areas -even in smaller scale operations along roadway. It seems so cruel to the ecosystems involved and unnecessary. Why can’t crews of people be hired to do this work? Yes it’s labor intensive, yes it may take longer and may cost more, but wouldn’t it be less damaging (especially to a boreal-like coniferous forest) to the ecosystem AND provide some extra jobs in an economy where people are looking for work? Is running one of those huge brush-cutters more fuel efficient than chainsaws? I just don’t like it. At the beginning of my walk, I had been thinking I’d donate to the Trustees; they have many fabulous properties. After seeing these clearing efforts and not being able to find any information on why or how these projects are being done, I’m much more reluctant to. Maybe a description of this project is in the management plan posted on their website, but the plan is dated 2006(!) and I haven’t yet found any more recent descriptions. It was an emotional hike, surrounded by beauty but haunted by patches of destruction.

Here are some photos from my hike that day. Sorry they aren’t the best, I only had my phone with me.

Meadow at Notchview, Windsor, MA

Notchview,Windsor, MA


Posted in Hiking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Staff Meeting

OK, Body, Mind, Brain, thanks for  showing up this morning. I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about a couple of issues before we dive into homework.

First, good job earlier this week getting some sleep. That was much appreciated and seemed to go pretty well. So, that being said, what the hell happened last night. 3 AM? Really? 
Yes, Mind, you have a point. We did keep reading that upsetting book when you said maybe this would be a problem. We won’t do that again. That being said, we’ve read this book already, we already know the outcome in the story; yeah it’s hard to read but we know they survive. But, agreed, we won’t do that again.
Body, you had something to add? Pollen, yes. Feeling like you can’t breathe does make it harder to sleep, certainly. We’ll reassess our allergy meds and try to minimize symptoms and side effects. 
Brain, I know this has been hard on you. The lack of sleep has taken its toll. Hang in there, OK? Mind needs your help with everything that’s been going on but I know you’ve got this.

So, here’s the deal. It’s been busy and you are all working super hard. Thanks for all the hard work. We are almost through this semester, just a few weeks left. Yes, spring is here and between the allergies themselves, the albuterol jitters and the antihistamine haze some days are going to be anxious and cloudy on top of all the usual demands. But, we can do it. We’ve been through 17 years of school, not to mention the other 26 years. We’ve had much harder times and we always come out OK, come out better in fact. So, this is more of the same. Let’s buckle down and get to it. I’ll give you down time when you need it, but I really need you to give me  110% for a few more weeks.
No more whining, no more blaming the others. We’re a team, we need to work like one. 
So, I think that covers it. Any questions? No?
Next order of business then: lunch. What do you want to eat?

Posted in Free Writing, My life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How a conversation that never happened changed my career 24 years later

In 1988, at the age of 17, I decided for myself I should go on birth control.  I hadn’t had sex yet.  I wasn’t even dating then. I just wanted to be prepared for when that day came. My sex education had come through my 8th grade sex ed class, conversations with my friends and a book my parent’s had gotten me some years earlier on where babies came from (as was their style; I was given a book on transactional analysis for kids and teens, too, so now I’m overly conscious of my Adult and Parent sometimes). I don’t remember ever talking about sex with my parents, but I wanted to be smart.  I had watched girls in my high school drop-out when they got pregnant and there was no way I was going to do that, I had plans!  I wasn’t going to even think about starting a family until I was done with college and had a career.

I thought I should talk to my mom about going on the pill and I still remember the night I tried.  We had gone to a nice dinner and were kind of dressed up – summer dresses and sandals – just a girls’ night out, nothing special. Driving home on a side road (I always found it easiest to have the hard conversations with my parents in the car where we couldn’t look at each other easily) I mustered up all my courage and finally asked my mom if I could go on the pill. She said no. 

And that’s where the conversation ended because as we crested a little hill we came upon a car accident. We were both on the rescue squad so not stopping to help was not an option. We called it in on Mom’s radio and started tending to the patients. A man was off a tractor that had been hit by a car. He was hurt, but not badly. I remember worrying about walking around the accident scene in my sandals and joking around afterwards about getting dressed up to take emergency calls.

My mom’s outright refusal had kind of floored me because she was a pretty liberal, understanding, progressive feminist type and was in school to be a physician assistant. I wouldn’t even have asked if I had known she would have that response.  It was awkward and afterward we never really went back to the conversation. I just didn’t mention it again.

I didn’t let her refusal to help stop me.  I decided I had to do what I thought was best for me.  I went to my local Planned Parenthood on my own and paid out-of-pocket. I still remember the first time I went…the waiting room and the exam room, talking to the physician assistant, meeting some girls from school in the waiting room and making awkward eye contact.  I had known I could get help there from the information booth they run every year at the county fair. I got my pills and got my gynaecology care there for a few years until I got my own health insurance.

Flash forward to 2012. Planned Parenthood was hiring and I was looking for a new career path. Had my mom not said no to me all those years ago, I don’t know if it would ever have occurred to me to work there. But, now that I had my own teenage daughter, it was time to give back to Planned Parenthood. It was kind of a surreal experience, becoming the physician assistant in the very same office I had started as a patient in and it made me so proud to work there.

At Planned Parenthood, I helped women from all walks of life –migrant workers and recent immigrants who spoke no English to the daughters of my high school classmates, to women who ran their own businesses; from early teens through their 60s – make choices about reproduction and sexual health. Some had never had sex, some had children already.  Some would come with a friend or family member; some came on their own facing tough choices. Providing them the tools to decide for themselves when they wanted to have children, giving them information on safe sex, helping them though difficult decisions like having an abortion or giving them support in a difficult relationship was very rewarding.  My favorite part of the job was talking to those teen girls that reminded me of myself. I would congratulate them on taking that step to take responsibility for their own health and often share my story with them. 

I was fortunate that although my parents weren’t comfortable with the idea of me having sex, they taught me to be a strong enough woman to seek out the support and services I needed on my own. Now, my daughter and I have very frank discussions about sex because I see so much more pressure on girls today than I perceived as a teen. I want her to have all the tools she can.  

Posted in My life | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

I am from…

For my writing class, we had to write an “I am from” poem based on a poem by Mary Pipher in her book, “Writing to Change the World.” When I first read her poem, I was a bit overwhelmed by how personal it was and the idea of writing something that took so much inner reflection and recollection really  terrified me. But, write it I had to. And, even though I make no pretense that I am a poet, I’m kind of proud of it. So, here it is, as a way for you to get to know me and where my writing comes from.

I am from Lee and Kathy

I am from Hudson, NY on the coldest Super Bowl Sunday ever

From the Chatham Fair and Ichabod Crane “Were you guys EVER in school?”

Long bike rides through the hills and farms of Columbia County


I am from Irish-American and French-Canadian roots

I am from factory laborers and nurses, carpenters and secretaries

From WWII Navy machinists and pharmacists mates

Camel cigarettes, fishing, Readers Digest and Hire’s Root Beer floats


I am from conservative grandparents and liberal parents

I am from “Don’t talk politics at dinner tonight”

From no-nukes rallies and Nixon’s resignation speech on cassette tape,

Slide shows from election monitoring in Nicaragua and signed pictures of Ollie North


I am from a small family, me and mom and dad

I am from family vacations camping and canoeing and hiking

From bookstores and libraries and museums, concerts and folk festivals

Long car trips listening to my walkman and reading, from northern Ontario to Key West


I am from Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and 80’s British pop

I am from Sesame Street, MASH, Nova and Doctor Who

From Star Wars, ET, Breaking Away and Bull Durham

“For wanting things that can only be found in the darkness on the edge of town” written on the train overpass


I am from Beatrix Potter and Richard Scarey

I am from Austin and Bradbury, Lewis and Tolkein, and Adams

From running out of bookcases and books piled on the floor

Laughing until we cried reading Pinkwater aloud as a family in the tent before bed


I am from hot summer days in the creek

I am from berry picking and eating pea’s right out of the garden

From freezing corn, making jam, picking up night crawlers after the rain

Thunder rolling in as I sit on the garage door swing watching the clouds


I am from the smell of roast beef and perfect mashed potatoes on Sunday afternoons

I am from macrobiotic vegetarian, “What is that? Skunk food?”

From cakes baked from scratch and homemade mac and cheese

Snickerdoodles waiting for me after school, grandma’s applesauce with every meal


I am from fire trucks and ambulances

I am from long days and sleepless nights helping people in crisis

From generations of families serving their community

The realization of a 3 year old’s dream, the first female firefighter in Valatie


I am from vowing I would “never even think of dating seriously until I finished my Bachelor’s”

I am from marrying my high school sweetheart at 20 and going to community college

From having a good career even if it wasn’t the path I planned

Realizing you don’t really know the person you’ve been married to for 10 years and mom never quite saying “I told you so”


I am from losing a whole huge extended family in divorce

I am from raising a daughter Sunday through Thursday

From losing my mom to cancer and relearning to live with my dad

Rediscovering life with the help of my daughter and watching the circle continue


Posted in My life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

This is a test of the emergency broadcast system. This is only a test.

Testing, testing… Check one, two…. Check one… check two…is this thing on?

Aren’t you all glad you followed me here?

Welcome to my latest blogging effort. I’m hoping to make a more productive run at it this time. You, dear reader, are among the first to see my latest creation. Thank you for joining me on my endeavor.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be starting to post some of my writing and I’d really appreciate your feedback. So, don’t forget: vote early and vote often!!

Posted in Introduction | Leave a comment