Faces of Lobster Country

At the end of the pier in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea we are reminded that the economy lives by the tide here by the Bay of Fundy.

At the end of the pier in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, we are reminded that the economy lives by the tide here by the Bay of Fundy.

by cheri

The border guards let us into Canada after stiff questioning.

Once here, we hatched our devious plan: eat as much lobster as we possibly can in the four days in New Brunswick and marvel at the extreme tide patterns (which I will address in a future blog post).

It wasn’t long before I determined that New Brunswick can compete with California in the craziness category. Here are some photos with captions to explain the scene (if possible).

Three kids in St. Andrews who were traveling with their grandparents. They told me their grandparents were worried about losing them.

Three kids in St. Andrews  were traveling with their grandparents. They told me their grandparents were worried about losing them.

The locals in St. Andrews encouraged us to visit one of Canada’s loveliest gardens, the Kingsbrae Gardens. The 27 acres are lush and diverse, but I thought I’d entertain you with the sculpture garden.

Through the archway we go into one of 34 different gardens and themes.

Through the archway we go into one of 34 different gardens and themes.



The stallion thrust his front hooves forward as if to say,

The stallion thrust his front hooves forward as if to say, ” I know I am stuck in a flower garden, but look at me.”


The sculptures tickled me silly. Can we see anything else in New Brunswick as entertaining?

The sculptures tickled me silly. Can we see anything else in New Brunswick as entertaining?

The answer to that question we found in Saint John, New Brunswick, a major port city still smarting from the 1812 decision to set the provincial capital inland to Fredericton, so the Americans wouldn’t attack.

We left the quaint town of St. Andrews and the iconic Algonquin Hotel for the Fundy National Park where we are now. On the way, we stopped in to Saint John (not to be confused with St. John’s, Newfoundland, which according to the locals, abbreviates Saint.)

We found Saint John to be, well, a curious place.

The first human likenesses we encountered as we headed to the business district were uncommunicative.

The first human likenesses we encountered as we headed to the business district were uncommunicative.

Then, we saw a sofa coming up the street. Hey, are we in California or what?image

The moving sofa, trundling up a steep street, caused us to look for law enforcement. Keep in mind, we were only in Saint John for about 1 hour or so.

The moving sofa, trundling up a steep street, caused us to look for law enforcement. Keep in mind, we were only in Saint John for about 1 hour or so.

Ron found a local policemen to which we registered our concern about the weirdness in Saint John.

The Captain was no match for the sofa.

The Captain was no match for the sofa.

We exited Saint John in a hurry and headed to the tiny town of Alma, right on the Bay of Fundy.

Posted in Life, People | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Walk a Carriage Road

by cheri

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

John D. Rockefeller donated 11,000 acres on Mt. Desert Island in Maine to augment the land holdings of what we know as Acadia National Park. He also funded a unique system of transportation within the park–a network of crushed gravel roads that branches out through the park like spokes. From 1915-1930, were you a visitor on foot heading to Eagle Lake,  horses and carriages could be heard coming up behind you with a rhythmic four-hoof  clip-clop crunch of gravel, followed by the wooden wheels of the carriage rolling the rocks like mill wheels.

Rockefeller had seventeen stone bridges designed and built to complement the 45 miles of carriage roads.


The only wheels we heard on our hike around Eagle Lake were the rubber tires of mountain bikes, commandeered by the young and the old, the fit and the unfit. Instead of the nostril-blow of Hackney ponies or Standardbreds, the groans and grunts of bicyclists from around the world made us happy to be on foot. Why is it that so many bicyclists look and sound like they are in pain and not enjoying themselves?

The granite borders of the carriage roads are known as

The granite borders of the carriage roads are known as “Rockefeller’s Teeth.”

We thought of hiking up to Cadillac Mountain, the highest vantage point on the Northeastern seaboard at 1530 feet and the place you want to be if you are the type of person that enjoys “firsts.” From early October to early March, up on the summit of Cadillac Mountain, you will be the first person to see the sunrise over North America. That thought evaporated when we saw a a steady caravan of cars, including Cadillacs, heading up there. We Californians are tired of traffic jams! To the carriage roads we go.

Eagle Lake is the public water source for Bar Harbor, Maine, so no swimming is allowed! I had forgotten my water bottle but took heart in the fact that should I need hydration, the water source was right there in a prodigious and hypnotic way.

Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA

Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park, Maine, USA


At about 1.5 miles into the hike, I did become thirsty and hungry but could not see the soothing water. The Maine forests are dense ( as I was, not taking water or snack). I looked symbolically at that little dead tree. Despite my desire to become fit, inside and out, it was time to walk back.

We approached lake’s edge. Only one little drink. No one will see.

I'll just walk out on those slick rocks; no one will see me.

I’ll just walk out on those slick rocks; no one will see me.

I decided against dunking my face into Eagle Lake.

When back from the hike, with a large and cool glass of Eagle Lake water, I gazed at the bubbles and stir sticks that appeared in it. Was I dreaming? Or just dehydrated?


Posted in Life, My photography | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

The House of Seven Green Gables

by cheri

Just in time to experience my first hurricane (Bill) in August of 2009, I arrived in Nova Scotia, along with my husband, whose desire to visit the location of Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, prompted our trip to a land wholly foreign to me.

Always one to check for tips about historic locations where authors and poets had lived and written, I waded into the Fodor’s Guide Book and searched the glossary.

” Hmmm…I do not see any reference to Annie Proulx or The Shipping News.”

” Look again, Cheri, it’s there.”

“In fact, dear, the most noteworthy literary reference I can find in Nova Scotia is to Longfellow and his poem Evangeline.”
Several minutes passed as I cross-checked references.

” Newfoundland is the setting for The Shipping News.”

*      *       *      *     *

Newfoundland was not on our itinerary and hotels had been booked, so to Nova Scotia we went!

While in this pristine loveliness for a week, aside from the hurricane in Halifax on the day we were to depart Nova Scotia, where in Carly Simon’s song “You’re So Vain, ” she suggests that Warren Beatty’s visit to New Scotland was  “…to see the total eclipse of the sun…, ” we visited Claire (French Acadian), Digby (English and site of Evangeline’s story), and Cape Breton Island (Scottish).

During that trip we considered traveling across the Bay of Fundy to two other Atlantic Canadian Provinces, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, but we ran out of time, and the hurricane was coming in fast. I wrote and posted several entries during that trip which can be found under the categories of Nova Scotia, Epic of Gilgamesh, and Labrador and Newfoundland.

*      *       *        *

Six years later, and with no hurricane in the forecast (yet), we are on our way to New Brunswick and PEI by car but first we have to escape Boston traffic.

“In terms of literary references in Atlantic Canada, dear, the only one I can find is the House of Seven Gables…”

“Really. My recollection is that we already saw that house in Salem in 1988. Remember, Hawthorne wrote it, correct?”

Upon checking the guidebook, I learn that the House of Green Gables was written on Prince Edward Island.

So much for our literary acumen!

Posted in Life, Writing and Teaching | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

What a woman does when her husband leaves for nine days…


You go girl!

by cheribabu

As a teacher for over 43 years, I feel guilty when there is nothing for an eager reader to learn from my posts here on the blog, but sometimes, actually quite a bit of the time, I am tired of teaching. If someone wants to learn about gerunds or how to instruct a dog to “heel” or about writing that is as crisp as a pickle or about the psychology of women, well, he or she  should ask me. Then, I am happy to teach.

For now, my blog has deteriorated into my eclectic (a fancy way of saying  jumbled) thoughts that go with no apparent organizational thread in a zillion directions. Perhaps your thoughts occasionally have the same zig-zag trajectory?

For a multiplicity  of examples of my latent eclecticism, read on:

Within the next four hours, my husband will be arriving home after a nine-day journey to the outer reaches of the Aleutians in search of silver salmon. While he has been gone, I have been doing exactly what I want to do such as texting our neighbor, who has a “ranch manager,” who has a barking dog, which he leaves out at night (hence, the barking). In my stern text I write  that if I hear that dog rattling my peaceful sleep at 3:00 am one more night, I am going to call the police. She was attentive to this text and texted her ranch manager. Very nice.

My screen name for Words With Friends is Cheribabu. This name is an accident, one committed when I was trying to do too many things at once and didn’t finish my intended screen name: CheriBaby. Although Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons spelled their Sherry with an S, I had a deep affinity for the song from the moment I heard it and like to use it as a screen name. At any rate, I’ve been playing Words With Friends in between walking, exercising, drinking lattes on my patio, and nibbling small healthy crackers dunked in low-fat humus. Sitting around playing games on my iPad is not my usual affair. Shouldn’t I be doing something productive?

I heard gunfire at the end of our road today. Our neighbor up there is running a shooting range in the middle of one of the last havens of pastoral quiet in our city. I power-walked up to noise (about 1 mile uphill) when I could have driven, just to confirm for myself that the automatic weaponry was coming from his place. Then, I sent him an email, asking why we were not notified of this activity on a quiet Sunday.

Clearly, since my husband has been away, I am a woman with too much time on my hands. But that is OK. In fact, it is more than OK. For the first 60 years of my life I had too much work on hands ( I mean, plate). It’s OK to listen to oaks rustle, right?

I’ve checked and rechecked the olive fruit fly traps, hauled two heavy garbage cans and recycle bins up our driveway and out onto the road, I’ve made pickles, thrown all of our spices out and purchased $68.57 worth of new spices ( I did forget the oregano, however), have given the dog three medicated baths for her skin condition, have used the blower to clean off the driveway of oily acorns (otherwise the dog will eat them), and have vowed to stop yelling at the idiots on the Park District property that parallels our house when they hoot and holler at 5:30 am. I’ve renewed my driver’s license online (thank God), have supervised three men putting up a bat deterrent system, have observed that the ollalieberries need more water, and have gone outside at night in my soft robe just to look at the stars. Let me also add here that after ordering my customary “lime and cilantro chicken salad” at the Nordstrom Cafe, I discovered that the company has removed the limes and the red peppers, along with serving a smaller salad–all for a whopping $12.95. I called the store manager, Joanne, to discuss how a salad could still be called a lime and cilantro salad with no limes. Surely a salad with less lettuce, no limes or red peppers should be priced accordingly.

Yes, in four hours my husband will be home, so I am now going to cook dinner, an act of love I haven’t done in nine days. I’ve eaten yogurt, salads with fruit and granola, small bowls of low-sodium soup, and more salads. Tonight, I pulled raw meat out of the freezer.

I’m going to have to be back on my best behavior and get that meat in the oven (which needs cleaning but which I chose to skip in lieu of working the New York Times Crossword).

So much for the “education” part of the tagline by Notes from Around the Block.





Posted in Life, People, Writing and Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Writing as crisp as a pickle

by cheri  sabrawIMG_2781

A colorful display of Ball canning jars sitting like needy souls at the end of an aisle in Target stopped me yesterday. I’m not sure why I lingered over the cornflower blue pints, lavender quarts, and petite pistachio-green pepper jelly jars.

I have never canned anything in my life other than my services at AT&T and Dish TV.

What I imagined as I held  one clear quart jar up to the  light with its rubbery pink seal and its metallic lid was a jar of kosher dill pickles in my refrigerator. Good-bye Clausen!

“Ode to Experience” the icy snap of my own homemade  pickle!

With Labrador Retrievian enthusiasm, I bought 12 of the clear quart jars, downloaded a recipe or two, and then earnestly tried to collect the ingredients. Mundane are the ingredients! So mundane that I bought enough Persian cucumbers at Trader Joe’s to make gallons of quarts. IMG_2785

Okay, I said to myself after leaving Trader Joe’s. Now on to Whole Foods to pick up the dill seeds.

Not dill weed. Dill seeds.

Dill SEED not dill weed

Dill SEED not dill weed

I thought, Steinbeck will bust his buttons when jars of raw-pack pickles with a snap sit on my counter. Why, I’ll call my kitchen Cannery Road. Why, maybe this activity will take the place of my obsessively playing Words with Friends and ruminating over  the New York Times Crosswords. Why, I will need a website to market my pickles. How about http://www.pickleswithasnap.com?


It wasn’t until dill seeds were impossible to locate that I began to understand that heretofore, unbeknownst to me, an underground of canning aficionados must be feverishly pickling not only cucumbers but beans, carrots, peppers, and gluten-free cauliflower here in Fremont. And (note this clue, Mr. Holmes), dill seed is the key ingredient. Where are these men and women who took all the available dill seeds in the entire metropolis?

At this time, all potential pickle production here at the Rancho has come to a stiff halt.

Where and to whom does a girl turn when <alas> she is unable through no fault of her own to turn a cucumber into a pickle?

To Amazon.com, of course.

The dill seeds arrive on Friday, just in time for Pickles With A Snap to go into production.

Posted in Life, Writing and Teaching | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

Saturday fitness check

by cheri  P1000581


Two weeks have passed since I hired a torturer trainer to motivate me (and my muscles).

Maybe you, too, decided to get into better health two weeks ago. Or maybe you are like Ken G., Bill, Muni, Cindy, and Sharon–some of my loyal friends who are already in shape. I’ve heard from most of you with encouraging words.

Like all races against time, getting back in shape is harder the older you are, so it’s critical to stop the watch and take inventory (or in my case, take Advil) and pat yourself on the back—if you can reach your back and it doesn’t cause too much pain.

You might remember thinking  Poor Cheri, she cannot do one push-up. Or perhaps you thought, Pathetic Cheri, what a wimp.

I am here to report that I can now do 2.5 push-ups before my chest falls to the mat. Hooray for me?

One more thing: I see muscle emergence in my biceps and triceps. The slight shadow of    muscle tissue is doing its best to emerge from a serious (but enjoyable) slumber.

I even bought a medicine ball.

How are you doing?


Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , | 32 Comments

The Bayeux Tapestry and the Channel Crossing

imagesby cheri block sabraw

In the dark winter of 2010, I listened to an engaging lecture on the Bayeux Tapestry given by Dr. Linda Paulson of Stanford University. On the screen behind the professor, colorful photos of the Tapestry moved from left to right reminding me of a medieval comic strip. The brightly colored panels of embroidery, depicting among many other things, the oath that Harold Godwin took  in 1064 in the presence of Duke William of Normandy, captivated me.  When Harold became King instead of Duke William, the oath became central to William’s decision to invade England from across the channel.

To accompany this segment of her class entitled War, Dr. Paulson assigned British  historian David Howarth’s short novel  titled 1066.  As the course progressed, she selected a number of insightful and well-written  books about war from Agincourt to Hastings, from Waterloo to the Civil War, and from World Wars I and II to Vietnam, yet Howarth’s 1066 stayed with me.

To this day, 1066 delights me in every way.  Howarth is an engaging story-teller who animates people and events  with his  wit and brevity. His portrayal of all of the players whose actions culminated at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 is masterful, clean, and unbiased.

As I read of Edward the Confessor and his alleged unconsummated marriage to Edith, of barbaric Viking Harald Hadrada ( a Berserker) and his stunning military loss  to Harold at the Stamford Bridge in York, of the ruthless and crafty Duke William of Normandy, and of sweet and brave Harold Godwin, King of England, for whom bad timing was to etch his name unfavorably in history books, the one event of the whole affair to park in my imagination, refusing to disembark, is the midnight channel crossing that occurred on September 27, 1066.

The Bayeux Tapestry depicts Duke William of Normandy’s journey across the English Channel, a feat accomplished in one night. One of the most amazing aspects of the crossing is  that he commandeered approximately 800 ships that Norman  ship builders had built from scratch in less that nine months. On many of these ships were knights and their warhorses. The knights accompanied their trained steeds on board along with their armor, saddles, and other accoutrements of war. It is thought that William the Conqueror brought 3000 stallions on these ships. Any of us who has ridden a high-spirited horse can only begin to appreciate the logistics of taking lots of horses, men, gear and feed in small ships across dark bumpy waters.

Does the Tapestry accurately depict this crossing?

I wrote about this event in 2010 and thought to share it with you.

Here is the beginning  of

Sailing to Byzantium: The Bayeux Tapestry’s True Story of the Channel Crossing by Cheri Block Sabraw.

The Bayeux Tapestry, preserved today in a museum in Bayeux, France, is a 933 year-old-survivor of wear and tear, war and peace. One of the most famous textiles on earth, it is a pictorial treasure-trove of information about medieval warfare and provides historical evidence of the events that transpired before and during the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The other works that do so are written documents: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the Gesta Guillelmi of William of Poitiers, and the Carmen de Hastingae Proelio of Guy, Bishop of Amiens, stand together as annals, historical biography, and poetry, respectively, shedding light on the remarkable military accomplishment of Duke William of Normandy. All four sources comment in one way or another on one of the most miraculous aspects of the Norman Conquest—the nighttime English Channel crossing, led by Duke William himself, in ships laden with the finest warhorses and knights. Could the events of the crossing as depicted on the Tapestry, from embarkation to disembarkation, have happened as stitched in 1077? The answer is yes.

By the time our eyes have traveled from the 1st panel depicting King Edward the Confessor’s command that Harold, earl of Wessex, journey to Normandy in 1064, until we view the 93rd panel illustrating Norman knights and horses at sea on their way to England, we will have learned many facts about eleventh-century warfare. The Tapestry’s accuracy in its portrayal of scenes, such as knights riding in saddles with stirrups and couching their lances before the delivery, has assisted military historians in their search for information about the Norman Conquest. Although some specifics about the Tapestry’s genesis remain speculative, we can trust much of what it teaches us about the Battle of Hastings. The mastermind behind the Tapestry’s design is unidentified, but we do know that scholars admire his historical accuracy.[1] We learn, for example, that some of the conical helmets worn by combatants on the Tapestry share similar features—nose and neck protectors—to those on Viking helmets found in York.[2] However, the Tapestry is not historically perfect. One example of this imperfection is its illustration of the hauberk, the mail shirt worn by medieval infantry and cavalry. On the Tapestry, combatants protect themselves by wearing full hauberks, shirts, and leggings. While wearing the equivalent of a small-weave modern day suit of cyclone fencing seems prudent for the medieval footman, riding a horse with such pants not only would ruin the saddle—an expensive and vital piece of the knight’s equipment—but also would chafe the skin. Scholars have observed that in all probability, hauberks worn by the Norman cavalry were designed with a split-skirt [3]that would protect the knight’s legs and groin, while at the same time give him the freedom to ride unrestrained. In most cases, however, the Tapestry’s pictorial representation of the armaments has been historically verified.[4] This accurate information suggests that the Tapestry’s interpretation of ship design and horse transportation could be historically feasible as well, perhaps with some disparity.

A historical summary of the story on panels 93-103 is necessary to provide context for the current discussion. After nine months of planning an invasion of England, the stars align for William. Possibly it was his ordering that the relics of St. Valery be paraded though the streets that caused the south wind to cooperate on September 27, 1066. We are told that over eight hundred ships[5] leave the estuary at high tide from St. Valery on their way to England, where they arrive in the early morning.[6] The panels display nine brightly colored ships, three made smaller in the background, lending perspective and depth, and six full-sized in the foreground that move across the tapestry, pushed along by the stem-stitched waves. Aside from the serious facial expressions of the men, who work busily to control the sails and steady the horses, the ships and the horses dominate the ten panels. In panel 93, ten horses wait patiently in the first ship; several with their mouths open, seem to smile. In the next ship, eight more horses line up by the starboard gunwale in pairs facing each other, perhaps for comfort during the nighttime crossing. Our eyes continue to move from left to right, and as they do so, the number of the horses in the ships diminishes. The last scene depicts an effortless disembarkation by two calm and healthy-looking steeds that step out of the ship as the Normans land uneventfully in Pevensey, England.

What type of man could orchestrate such a complex military plan and see it through to its successful conclusion? What type of man could manage that many men, ships, and horses while they all waited for the right weather conditions? Only a man whose political will to power was tempered by incredible patience, whose reputation for ruthless battle tactics was condoned by the Church in Rome, and whose treasury was blessed with ample funds could execute such a plan. That man was Duke William of Normandy, humbly born a bastard to a tanner’s daughter.

[1] Jim Bradbury, The Battle of Hastings, (Sutton, 1998), p.78

[2] Ibid., 80

[3] John France, Ed. Medieval Warfare, 1000-1300, (Ashgate, 2006), Ian Pierce “Arms, Armour and Warfare in the Eleventh Century”, Anglo-Norman Studies, 10, p. 238

[4] Jim France, The Battle of Hastings, p.68:

[5] Elisabeth M. C. Van Houts, The Normans In Europe. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000. p.130

Ms. Houts translates the Three Latin Chronicles from the Anglo-Norman Realm and presents “The Ship List of William the Conqueror”, a list of the noblemen’s contribution of men and ships to the Norman side. I counted 811 ships, not including the ones that Duke William had built in seven months.

Dr. Bernard S. Bachrach stipulates that modern scholars regard the fleet as being able to transport 10,000 men and between 2000-3000 horses.

[6] Stephen Morillo, Ed.The Battle of Hastings: Sources and Interpretations. (Boydell Press, 1996), Carol Gillmor, “Naval Logistics of the Cross-Channel Operation 1066”Anglo-Norman Studies 1984 pp.114-5

Posted in The Bayeux Tapestry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Shall we all get in better shape?

P1000881by cheri

You will forgive me. Although I have not taught since the fall of 2014, teaching for me is an involuntary reflex.

I’ve just returned from my cardio-exercise in preparation for my first training session tomorrow. I’ve been trying to do one push-up here at home (with no success yet). My lunges have produced a sore knee.

However, despite those deficits, I want to share with you what I  learned today.

Many of my readers already know how out-of-shape I am, up close and personal. Ken G. helped pick me up and move me to the side of the trail on the way up Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona, several years ago when I became dehydrated. My childhood friend, Bill, now a Ph.D in physical therapy and university professor, has kindly remained mute when I tell him about my sore hip or sacroiliac joint. Muni  is one of my doctors (and friends) who knows my chart intimately.  My cousin, Jan, could feel my flabby arms when she hugged me (almost to death) on Monday. The Judge, my husband, knows from, well, let’s just say he knows.

Whether you are in your seventies and sedentary, or in your eighties and frenetic, whether you are overweight, underweight, full of willpower or absent of willpower, whether you have great self-esteem or weak self-esteem–you can still do something to improve your physical health. Right?

So, here is what I learned today:

1. iPhones have not helped a nation’s posture. Most of us are looking down and not up. Most of us are on the balls of our feet, not our heels. Try rocking back on your heels and see what happens to your posture.

2. Your visceral fat index is the most important statistic. Luckily, mine was very good (which ameliorated my push-up humiliation). Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds your organs, the most dangerous of all. I learned that I am 26% fat, 28% muscle, and .7 % full of visceral fat. Those numbers ,along with my age, height, weight, and other data ( my lipstick color and shoe brand) were centrifuged. My goal is to be 23% fat and 34% muscle.

Now for the teaching part:

If you would like to join me on a  self-imposed health regimen of your choosing, perhaps we can cheer each other on.

Linda, who writes a dandy blog, and I are checking back with each other in a month. Kayti may hire a personal trainer, maybe. She writes a splendid blog.

After all the word “blog” means web log, right? Maybe you might want to weigh in…

As you can see from the picture, we all have people in our lives who are depending on us to be the best we can.


Posted in Education, Life, People | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

To the gym, I go

P1000597by cheri

Today I am beginning a weight-training regimen down at a small gym at the bottom of my road. This first-time experience will go undocumented by pictures.

I’m in my sixties and although I look somewhat fit, I’m not. I have no strength other than that of spirit.

Sometimes, I hate to admit, I fail to twist the lids from capers and sweet pickle bottles. Other times, when my husband closes off the hose nozzle, I cannot budge it from its recalcitrant grip, so  the begonias droop until he comes home to rescue their sweet souls and stems from water deprivation.

I walk briskly up a mountain road about 4 times a week and chase a yellow dog around the property, along with shooting shooing turkeys off the grass (now dead…the grass, that is), but these activities are not enough to improve my bone density, muscle tone, and strength.

So, wish me luck. Think good thoughts.


Posted in Life | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Mr. Holmes and Me

Mr._Holmes_posterby cheri sabraw

I arrived home last night at 9:30 pm after taking in the film Mr. Holmes, the story of Sherlock Holmes’ final years in Sussex, England, where he struggled with memory loss as he tried (successfully as we would learn) to recreate his last detective story for the young boy, Roger, his housekeeper’s son.

Although the multi-themed Mr. Holmes might take the viewer in many directions—beekeeping, dementia, loneliness, love, and nature—it is Sherlock Holmes’ method of detection that captivated me.

During the film, I leaned over to my husband and reminded him of the importance of detail in life. Whether he interpreted my whispered observation as a true reaction to the film or as a personal petition, I do not know.

Holmes’ attention to detail is at the epicenter of his sleuthing. In Mr. Holmes, the wasp, the scent of a woman’s perfume, and a glove all lead to his cracking the mystery. He reminds us that missing the meaning of a detail can lead us down the path of uncertainty and fear.

Consider my own detective story, the Mystery of My Right Eye, a vignette that occurred last night after I went to bed still relishing in the beauty of the film I had just enjoyed.

Early this morning, perhaps about 4 am, a throbbing right eye brought me from a deep sleep to consciousness.  Even the moisturizing drops I blinked into my sore eye did not assuage the minor but consistent irritation, which plagued me until the dawn broke and the blue jays began their squawking.

I padded into my bathroom and snapped on my lighted mirror, sure that by illuminating and magnifying my eye, the reason for my pain would be apparent. That my eye was not red surprised me. Is my vision still in tact, I wondered?

I put on my glasses to perform a test of my vision and walked downstairs in my slippers to fetch a cup of coffee, sure that a more alert brain would remind my eye to focus. I sat down on my sofa, and began my own optometric exercises, first opening one eye and focusing on an object and then closing it and refocusing.

Were the yellow begonias out on the deck as boastfully clear as they usually were?IMG_3067

The vision in my right eye was slightly blurred and I will confess to momentary panic. This less-that-logical approach to problem solving would not go well were Sherlock Holmes on my shoulder.

Back up to my bathroom and that mirror.

There on the sink rested my contact lens case, a bright red ladybug in full spotted regalia. Although not a wasp, it was a clue. It was still open.

Had I removed both of my lenses last night and tucked them into their baths after returning from the show? Of course I had. There they rested on a tissue, dried-up silicone hydrogels, now curling up from the air of the night. This is my routine and there was my evidence.

Mr. Holmes, known for his ability to take a clue to its logical conclusion and solve the mystery, entered my mind.

Would Mr. Holmes have approved of my slowly encroaching fear about an asymmetrical vision problem and a painful eye? No. Stay with logic, he seemed to mysteriously transmute.

I looked with my left eye into my right. No lens, only pain.

Now was the time to apply the Holmesian abductive reasoning: examine the detail and from there draw my hypothesis from which the premises may not necessarily lead to conclusion.

The two contact lenses I wore to the movie lay on the tissue.

I still had a pain in my right eye.

When I put on my glasses, the vision in my right eye was blurred.


Could another contact lens be in my right eye?

I looked again. Nothing.

At that moment, in frustration and I suppose, in reverence to Sherlock Holmes, I put my fingers to my right eye to pull the imaginary lens from it and in doing so, I retrieved a contact lens, one that had been heretofore invisible.

The mystery solved: I had put two contact lenses into my right eye before leaving for the film, the film about detail, memory, and pain.












Posted in People | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments