A Dyed-in-the Wool New Englander Waitin’ Out the Stawm

Wicked Stawm Comin'I am a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander. I’ve often used that expression over the years without ever knowing its origin and I never thought to ask other dyed-in-the-wool New Englanders why we refer to ourselves as such. I’d read, at some point, that the expression means “thorough-going and uncompromising” but it wasn’t until today that I found a history of the phrase on Merriam Webster’s website. There I learned that:

“Early yarn makers would dye wool before spinning it into yarn to make the fibers retain their color longer. In 16th-century England, that make-it-last coloring practice provoked writers to draw a comparison between the dyeing of wool and the way children could, if taught early, be influenced in ways that would adhere throughout their lives. In the 19th-century U.S., the wool-dyeing practice put eloquent Federalist orator Daniel Webster in mind of a certain type of Democrat whose attitudes were as unyielding as the dye in unspun wool. Of course, Democrats were soon using the term against their opponents, too, but over time the partisanship of the expression faded and it is now a general term for anyone or anything that seems unlikely or unwilling to change.”

I am one who has had the privilege of traveling extensively over the years – for work and pleasure – and, as I write this, I am in Southwest Florida, hundreds of miles away from my beloved New England. I give thanks every day for the treasured times I’ve had in dots on the map from Barcelona to Manila; from Hwange to the Arctic Circle; from Capri to San Francisco; from Key West to Half Moon Bay. I could rhapsodize for hours on each and every one of these glorious places and hundreds of others. But, as a storm – and a storm for the books – is bearing down on New England, I find my mind and heart and spirit turning home. I find myself missin’ my New England somethin’ awful.

Our old barn in snow
Our old barn in snow

I miss the culture and intellectual stimulation of Boston and Cambridge and the incomparable beauty of the Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine coastlines. I miss cider donuts and fresh-off-the-tree Macs. I miss my farmers’ markets; I miss my May strawberries. I miss cross-country skiing from pub to pub in North Conway; I miss the apres ski at Sugarbush and Killington. I miss Vermont cheddar, Vermont maple syrup and Vermont maple candy purchased in Vermont. I miss the Green Monster, Boston Garden, the Boston Public Gardens, the icky sticky subway, and the “Make Way for Ducklings” statues. I miss the dome on the Statehouse, Comm. Ave, haddock, fried clams, and the old Filene’s Basement. I miss the MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I miss Irish Pubs especially on St. Pat’s, the Freedom Trail, the sailboats on the Charles, the Hatch Shell, the Symphony and the Boston Pops. I miss the Huntington Theatre and I miss Bunratty’s. I miss Harvard Square, the Flume, the Concord Bridge, Walden Pond and Hampton Beach (where I pastored the most delightful congregation of Baptists). I miss all the folks with whom I made memories in these places. And I miss the comfort in knowing a place and having it know me.

There's a door here somewhere
There’s a door here somewhere

Today as a blizzard, that may rival the one of ’78, is moving in with its threats of 30 plus inches of snow, I think back to the storm of 37 years ago. I was six months pregnant with our daughter, Brooke, living on the North Shore of Boston and making an hour-long trip each day to the South Shore to teach in an alternative high school. The administration dismissed us just a bit early and, though the state was closing the highway – literally – right behind me, I was able to make it home – after several hours – in my Triumph Spitfire (which, as some of you may know, was little more than a go-cart!). Any Triumph devotee will tell you that part of the charm of the car was that you had to have towels at the ready to catch any drops coming in where the convertible top met the body. It was very low to the ground – you could stick your arm out the window and push yourself along – and it was so light, it didn’t stand a chance in Hell of holding the road in inclement weather. Oh, how I miss that car!! I really did love it! Anyway, my husband Gene and I had another vehicle at the time – a Blazer – with four-wheel drive and we decided to volunteer with the Red Cross. Gene helped pull folks out of flooded properties on the Lynn shore and I worked to create a shelter in one of the schools for those displaced by the storm.

Mac-especially-misses the snow!

Well, now the Blizzard of ’15 has arrived. We won’t be stocking up on bread and milk. We won’t be getting out the candles. And, though, we have another four-wheel drive vehicle, we won’t be digging anybody out and we won’t be making snow angels. No throwing snowballs. No building snow forts. No counting how many shovelfuls of snow we’ve tossed. The dogs won’t be leaping over snow piles and we won’t have to avoid eating yellow snow. We won’t be sharing storm stories with the neighbors, the bagger at the grocery, or friends on the phone. Sigh. . .

I pray everyone stays safe and I hope our loved ones up there will think of me missing all the hunkering down in front of the fire waiting to see just how wicked big the “stawm” will be. Make sure you have a way to heat up the Dunks should the power go out. I’ll be thinking of you and please, think of me missing you and all of this. I’m still dyed-in-the-wool but I can only be there with you – in my woolies – in my dreams. I’ll be watching the weather and toasting you with hot chocolate (or, more likely, a glass of wine)!

(Note: this is an updated version of a story I posted as the big 2013 snowstorm was bearing down on the New England. I am reposting it as a bomb cyclone, another wicked winter storm is hitting home.)

Reverie is the Sunday of the Mind

IMG_4263.jpgAs many of us are chilled just now by a “deep freeze,” I thought our cold folks–as well as those in warmer climes–might wish to sit a bit in the “green lap of nature”:

We should be better Christians if we were more alone; we should do more if we attempted less, and spent more time in retirement, and quiet waiting upon God. The world is too much with us; we are afflicted with the idea that we are doing nothing unless we are fussily running to and fro; we do not believe in “the calm retreat, the silent shade.” As a people, we are of a very practical turn of mind; “we believe,” as someone has said, “in having all our irons in the fire, and consider the time not spent between the anvil and the fire as lost, or much the same as lost.” Yet no time is more profitably spent than that which is set apart for quiet musing, for talking with God, for looking up to Heaven. We cannot have too many of these open spaces in life, hours in which the soul is left accessible to any sweet thought or influence it may please God to send.

The Grass is Always Greener“Reverie,” it has been said, “is the Sunday of the mind.” Let us often in these days give our mind a “Sunday,” in which it will do no manner of work but simply lie still, and look upward, and spread itself out before the Lord like Gideon’s fleece, to be soaked and moistened with the dews of Heaven. Let there be intervals when we shall do nothing, think nothing, plan nothing, but just lay ourselves on the green lap of nature and “rest awhile.”

Time so spent is not lost time. The fisherman cannot be said to be losing time when he is mending his nets, nor the mower when he takes a few minutes to sharpen his scythe at the top of the ridge. City men cannot do better than follow the example of Isaac, and, as often as they can, get away from the fret and fever of life into fields. Wearied with the heat and din, the noise and bustle, communion with nature is very grateful; it will have a calming, healing influence. A walk through the fields, a saunter by the seashore or across the daisy-sprinkled meadows, will purge your life from sordidness, and make the heart beat with new joy and hope.

“The little cares that fretted me, I lost them yesterday. . . Out in the fields with God.”

On the Quiet Side of the Tetons

From Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman. Photos by D.F.G. Hailson.

New Nature Photography Sites Launched

IMG_0342I’ve launched a new website (http://www.dfghailsonphotography.com) through which my nature photographs may be viewed and purchased. I hope you’ll visit, like what you see, and return often to see what’s new.  I’ve also opened new Twitter (https://twitter.com/hailsonphoto) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/dfghailsonphotography) accounts.

I have been blessed in being able to spend delight-filled days recording, through my camera’s lens, glorious natural wonders from the majestic Grand Canyon to the hoodoo-filled Bryce Amphitheater, from the lush and soul-soothing Everglades to the barren salt flats of Death Valley’s Badwater Basin, from the sanderling-bedecked white sand beaches of Topsail Island to the other-worldly cinder gardens and lava fields of the Craters of the Moon. Along the way, my love of wildlife and wild places has deepened into a more fervent advocacy and my love of photography has developed into a passion.  I pray the images you find on all of these pages–images of sacred places, wildlife, wilderness, roadscapes, waterscapes, kitsch and sundry–will speak to your heart and mind and elevate your spirit. [Photos: D.F.G. Hailson]

The Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida
Little Blue Heron, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida [Photo:D.F.G. Hailson]
“The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan considers Little Blue Herons a species of High Concern owing to declining populations. Habitat loss and human-caused changes in local water dynamics pose the most serious threats to regional populations. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act as well as state wildlife laws protect herons from harassment, killing, or collecting. However, Little Blue Herons that forage at fish hatcheries are vulnerable to illegal shooting; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and some states issue permits to legally shoot them. Like all waterbirds, Little Blue Herons are vulnerable to changes in water quality. Birds that eat prey from flooded agricultural fields and drainage ditches risk contamination by pesticides and heavy metals. Human disturbance has also been shown to harm colonial breeding bird populations, causing adults to abandon nests, eggs and chicks to die, and other impacts. Closing wading-bird colonies to human disturbance during the breeding season can help protect Little Blue Herons.” Source: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology [Photo: D.F.G. Hailson]