Friday, August 24, 2012

Hogshead Cooperhawk Pt.1

It was a beautiful winter morning. The sun had risen in a bright, clear sky. The night before I finished painting the living room, the one with the new bay window, light blue. The blue painter's tarp was still covering the mound of furniture in the middle of the floor when there was a loud, dull thud at the window. 
The outer pane of the triple glazed glass was shattered. The deed was probably done by a miscreant teen. I looked closer.

There was a brownish grey lump on the edge of the front porch. A bird. Not an eagle, but a large bird, none the less. 

I ran for the camera and grabbed a quick shot through the door glass. I moved over to the window and the bird had moved. His bell was thoroughly, completely and loudly rung!

The dumb cluck was identified as a Cooper Hawk. common to the mid-Atlantic, they feed exclusively on small birds caught in flight.

In the next days he made his way to and sat in a tree while clearing his head. Then he was gone. Until the next week. He was standing on the front lawn enjoying breakfast. 

For those concerned about the condition of the poor Cooper Hawk, think of the chickadees that reside in the Holly tree just outside the replaced front window.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hog Pens

When I was mere lad, I had the good fortune to have a friend whose family owned a summer home on Hogpen Creek off of Middle River.

The friend and I lost touch with each other until recently, if you can call a three thousand mile separation "touch."

One recent Sunday I was driving home to Baltimore from Ocean City, Maryland when I saw something that reminded me of all those great summer days of long ago. The sign said, "Hog Pen Park."

Many miles now separate me from dear friends and dips in those waters.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Memories of Easter Passed

Growing up, Easter was an event, a celebration, a day marked by all the right ideas.

For the first forty years of my life, every Easter we celebrated with the trip to church. I was carried early on and later propelled by my own locomotion. My Mom would lead the three children into the fifth pew on the right. We always sat there. The angle was right to see and hear everything without the distraction of sitting farther back or the neck pain from sitting farther forward. As I got older, my sisters and I would sing with the children’s choir. As the years passed, I was a multi-service acolyte and eventually a communion assistant.
In my youth, after church, the family would gather for an early afternoon Easter dinner. When I was a small child, this happened at my grandparent’s home. Through my pre-teen and ten years, it was at my Mother’s house in Govans.

My sisters got older; they married and moved out of the house. My Mother remarried and took to her new surname, Easter, with gusto. A few years later, my Mother and I moved to a bigger house with a wonderful backyard. Easter Dinner moved there for the family, too.

Then I married and moved, but always returned for Easter Dinner. My eldest sister would bring her two children, the next would bring an ever-increasing number of “cousins club” member to join the celebration with my son. Although it could not have been, my memory tells me every Easter was a bright, warm, sunny day.

Easter, like Christmas, were often accompanied by a migraine headache for my Mother.* That didn’t stop her when it came to preparing the meal, though. Hours were spent cooking. Additional hours were spent conversing around the table, and more spent clearing the dishes and putting up the left-overs. On those occasions when the meal was shared at another home, the pattern stayed the same. 

In 1989, the family Easter dinner was at the home of my sister Kathie and her husband Charlie. Most of the cousins (one was, as I recall, in the Navy and two were dining with their father's family, not us), a group now swelled to nine, and the parents piled in to celebrate with each other. 

The agenda for the day had been for my wife and son to attend church with Mom, have brunch at Mom’s or a restaurant, and travel to Olney to meet the rest of the family for dinner. After church, I learned that my wife wouldn’t be going with us. After returning from dinner, I learned that the three of us would never live together again.

In 1990, my mother’s family had the last Easter Celebration that we would ever hold together. As she cooked in the kitchen, my sisters and I sat in the living room and laughed and talked, about everything except missing spouses and former spouses. We made claims on the thousands of little things and big that made our mother’s home so unique. It wasn’t as macabre as I sounds. Who would get the piano and who the organ; who would get which vase, each book, each lamp, table, chair, knick-knack, painting . . . It went on and on. Mom would duck her head in and tell us where she had put the pen and labels we were to use to make these claims come true.

The cousins were growing up. The older ones weren’t playing on the floor with toys anymore. They wandered from their discussions outside to join the parents, and back again. Jenny was pregnant with her first daughter. She and I were able to steal a quiet moment together, right in front of everyone else. I was he uncle. She knew I wouldn’t steer her wrong. I don’t believe I did.

We ate the ham, the mashed potatoes, the kale and all the fixings, the whole gang gathered around the table, except for the smallest ones who had a table to themselves on the kitchen table where they couldn’t disrupt us with a simple spill. The White oriental carpet in the dining room had suffered enough traumas from years of attention from Auggie doggie. I remember a wonderful day of family and sharing.

As I said, it was to be the last Easter Celebration as an almost whole family.

Jenny’s beautiful baby was born on Halloween, four days after my mother’s birthday, the day I last spoke to Mom. The healthy little girl, my Mom’s first great-grandchild went home from the hospital in the quaint little town of Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania where my sister was the pastor. On November 3, Mom put the baby to bed and laid down and died from the heart attack she suffered. She was as happy as she had ever been in her life. I can assure you she had a wonderful meeting with her Lord and Savior.

Part of our family died that night, too.

The post-funeral reception was the last time I broke bread with my sisters.

I was never again present for a meeting of the “Cousins Club”. The only times I have since seen them assembled were at other funerals.

*Decades after these headaches manifested themselves, some bright doctor saw the debilitating illness for what it really was - an allergy to fresh-cut grass. The Christmas headaches were the result of an allergy to pine trees. In the nineteen forties, the head-docs were sure it was related to her faith, i.e. her head.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Stages of Deja Vu

This was supposed to be a review of an amateur theater production. Things don't always turn out the way we planned them.

My wife and I love amateur and children's theater. I always have. At least, since early adolescence. I have tried my hand and voice at theater, most recently with The Clynmalira Players doing melodrama in their church fundraising program.

I have most vivid memories of beating the drums for A Children's Theater Workshop (I believe) production of "The Importance of Being Ernest" back in the mid-sixties.

Another standout memory is of the Northern High School production of the Christmas classic, "Amahl and the Night Visitors." Who could forget, "This is my box! This is my box! I never travel without my box!" I can hear the music in my head; it would help you if you could, too.

Both of those shows starred the love of my adolescent life, Holly Smith, now Eaton, formerly of Baltimore and now of Sacramento, CA, where she stars as a wife, mother, and grandmother.

Last weekend, we chased another young actress to yet another show. We have followed Kelsey Lake through Elementary, Middle School and High School performances as well as on the children's theater stages around Baltimore. (Full disclosure - My wife was the nurse at Kelsey's elementary and middle school, and our youngest son was a friend to Kelsey's older brother.)

In past years, we had a stretch where we attended six straight productions of "Annie", each performed by a different troupe at a different venue. We have seen a lot of shows.

Kelsey and Holly weren't the only performers we followed. We'll never forget Ann Alexander in her myriad of performances. But we had never seen "Thoroughly Modern Millie" with, or without, the "Jr." appellation. We can scratch that off the list now.

Before I go too far, go see this show! "Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jr.", December 18 and 19 at 1:00 pm in the Administration (J) Building at the Community College of Baltimore County Essex Campus, 7201 Rossville Blvd., Nottingham, MD 21236. $10.00. (443) 840-ARTS or You will want to give them a standing ovation at the end of EVERY song!

Now, I know Kelsey is a teenager. I still have that image in my mind of the little girl playing in the pool at her home. I remember well watching her over the years as Belle, Dorothy, an unforgettable Nancy in "Oliver, now Millie, and many more roles. On the stage, her stature grows with her voice and she becomes the largest presence in the performance, she dominates!

Kelsey Lake, "Millie", with Lorraine Gordon

One more reason to go see this show - It is Kelsey's last show with the Children's Playhouse of Maryland, Inc., a not for profit community theater.

So where is the deja vu, you might be thinking? It's here. I'll explain.

In 1970, I was honored to accompany Holly Smith to her Senior Prom. I asked that her hair, her beautiful, long, blonde hair, be done in ringlets, the kind you see in 19th century photographs, or movies from that period. She and her Mom pulled it off. Holly, with her hair in ringlets, the satin blouse and full, floor length dress is an unforgettable image for me. I don't have a picture of her from that night, but this is reminiscent.
Nicole Smith, "Miss Dorothy"

When Nicole, Miss Dorothy, made her entrance, I had a flash back to 1970. In spite of the difficulty with her microphone, she stood toe-to-toe with Kelsey in the duet, and neither blinked or balked, they kept going to the enjoyment of the audience. When she sang, my flashback was reinforced. Nicole will own the Children's Playhouse of Maryland stage for the next four years. She is talented, beautiful and has those ringlets, at least for this show.

I have been blessed to know many great actresses and singers. Holly was first, a teenager and young woman who could do both. Ann Alexander was incomparable at both, and sang at Lorraine's and my wedding. Kelsey has grown in talent and will build the future that she wants. As I said, Nicole is next. 

For me, it is one of the best experiences, watching these women grow in the performance arts. It is deja vu.

And I look forward to having it again, and again.

Monday, December 6, 2010

April, May, June, July, August Showers, Bring December Flowers

On a beautiful early spring day my wife planted fur Marigold plants in the garden alongside the driveway.

The beautiful spring day turned into a hot spring and summer. The garden alongside the driveway contained a new Clematis, four tomato plants and a green pepper plant.

Each morning, and many evenings, I watered the plants, slowly watering until the ground was saturated. Ninety degree day after ninety degree day, I stood on the driveway and watered the plants.

The tomatoes produced four pieces of fruit throughout the summer. Six scrawny peppers went into salads. And still, I watered. First one, then another Marigold turned from greenish brown leaves to sticks. In late August, I watered no more.

The tomato plants were pulled. The dead leaves stripped from the Clematis. In October, the Marigolds started to look good. In November they were blooming. The big freeze hit in early November, and still the Marigolds bloomed.

This photo was taken yesterday, December in 34 degree temperatures. The wind chill today is in the low teens. I am ready to start a career in gardening instruction.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ravens' Playoff Tickets - In Your Future?


What a week for Ravens' fans. One win stolen took us all down, then one game won decisively kept us on the edge of our seat until the end! Could you believe that last three and one-half minutes!

The playoffs look to be in the Ravens' future. Are they in yours?

The Timonium Optimist Club and Foundation, Inc. is selling raffle tickets for each playoff game the Ravens appear in.

The tickets are only $5.00 each and there are only three hundred tickets available!

Get your raffle tickets now by sending me a comment that indicates how many tickets you want! (There are not three hundred available. They are selling as you read this.)

Get your raffle tickets.

In the event the Ravens do not make the playoffs, extremely unlikely now, the winner of the 12/31/08 raffle will take home $400.00!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Are you ready for some Ravens Playoff Football Tickets

Friends and Family who are Ravens' fans:

Some of you may know that the Timonium Optimist Club & Foundation, Inc., an IRC 501(c) (3) tax exempt corporation, raffles off a pair of Ravens' season tickets each summer as one its our fundraising projects. Since the team may be headed for post-season play, the club has exercised its option to buy tickets for any post-season home games. We have organized a rush raffle of the tickets. Here is how it works:

· We will sell only 300 raffle tickets at $5 each. (Not bad odds!)
· Every ticket sold will be good for a chance to win two tickets to the first playoff game. When the Ravens win, everyone’s ticket goes back into the pot for a chance at the next game – potentially three drawings.

Wildcard game drawing: Dec. 31
Division playoff game drawing: Jan. 7
AFC Championship game drawing: Jan. 14

If the Ravens do not make the playoffs, the default prize is $400.

Proceeds, of course, go to support the Timonium Optimist youth programs and projects. Checks should be made payable to "Timonium Optimist Foundation."

If you would like to purchase tickets for this raffle, please let me know by email ASAP. I will make every effort to get tickets back to you in time to use as stocking stuffers -- no problem for those of you who live close enough to Baltimore that I can deliver them personally. (If you are further away, you could always put an IOU in the stocking.)

FYI, the seat location is Section 513, Row 14, Seats 1 and 2 (center end zone).
eBay listings for tickets in similar locations for two seats to the wildcard game are offered for $390. Championship tickets are going for $750.

Merry Christmas and good luck!!