Saturday Symmetry

P1010889by cheri

Most marriage ceremonies concern the union of two individuals who pledge themselves to the institution of marriage–that is, they will proceed forward (and all “forward” encompasses), legally bound, until death parts them.

In new marriage, you accepted the sea unconditionally. If it was raging, you thought it romantic; if it was lazy, you thought it wise.

If the sky filled with clouds, your picnic was still grand; the sandwiches tasted soft and sweet; the wine, perfect.

Such is the beauty of young love.

P1010722The years leave their marks. The relationship grows; the rings of time crack in places, moss invades the impenetrable bark, but still, a ribbon of love reminds you of the sweet nothings of the day.

P1010569As the years advance in a marriage, if you have paid close and necessary attention, you are elated that you are not a facsimile of each other but rather, two different people.

Sometimes, the recognition of those differences is startling!

You tussle for ground, your redefine the terms, you do your best to be your best.

One of you–the one for whom aging has intensified the need for order and detail–has created this wood stack. The other of you–well, you are the one waiting to have a glass of wine in a weathered chair.

One of you photographs the detail of life.

P1010705The other of you photographs the expanse.

P1010901Your lives intersect like a complicated geometry proof. One of you heads out toward infinity on a straight line. The other swims in concentric circles.

P1010790And yet, you find symmetry in what matters most.


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My friends, the Clydes

imageby cheri

An indifferent wire and an unshaven fence both travel up the barren hill that lies at the bottom of my road. The cattle have ripped every last blade of dead grass from it.  The blue sky and white cloud conspire as if to mock the hill, the fence, the wire, and the stubby fescue. ” What a magnificent day for shining and floating!”  they comment with the help of a hot and gossipy breeze.

At the base of this tawny mountain, whose back looks like the deer which hide in her ravines, I reflect on my powerlessness to coax the rain from her boudoir and reveal herself. My spirits sag; my resolve, wanes.


Black Beauty looks to San Francisco and its delicious fog. His hooves heavy, he heaves a sullen sigh, looking for feed on a feedless promontory.

I whistle for my friends.

From across the way, they trundle down to greet me, the Clydes,  full of love and hope. I reward them both with organic ( non GMO ) Honeycrisp apples.


We agree on many things: the oppressive drought, the luxury of our freedom, and our need for a nourishing pedicure.


I rub their velvety noses; I swat flies off their strong necks; I confide in them: ” Guess what? I can now do 5 push-ups!” They remind me of all that is strong, patient, glorious, and gentle.


The time comes to bid farewell for now. I encourage them and in turn, they provide fodder for my spirit.


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Looking for Bullwinkle J. Moose


Unlike so many other forests I have seen, the forests in Atlantic Canada can be thick and short, crowded and scrubby. Balsam firs, white and red spruce, alders, pines and hemlocks vie for space and air. The winds off the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Northumberland Straits, and the Bay of Fundy seem to twist and stunt their growth.

In New Brunswick, a province I have been told, with only 750,000 people living in the entire landmass, you can drive for miles and miles on roads just like the one in the above picture, without seeing anything but a wall of conifers leaning out as if to say, “Watch it, buddy.”

Our route from Acadian side of New Brunswick, the east coast, to the provincial capital, Fredericton, turned out to be a race against the setting sun. We drove and drove without seeing anything but a viridian timberland wall on both sides of the road.


In many instances, the roads had been shaved on both sides by a cadre of barbers–heavy excavators swinging their boxes back and forth, knocking small trees to the left and right like toothpicks.

And why?

image“Oh, if I could only see a moose, ” I kept sharing with my stalwart driver who was trying to navigate a road that never changed its scenery for miles and miles and miles.

There are 500,000 to 1 million moose in New Brunswick, and every year, on certain stretches of highway, unsuspecting motorists and moose collide in a nasty dance of death and damage. Just learning this statistic caused incessant warnings to my driver “…to watch out in case a moose steps out of these woods.”

“Cheri, moose are shy (albeit huge–850-1500 pounds) animals who have no interest in us, so be glad that there is  daylight and stop worrying, ” he admonished, tired of my drama. My research told me that September is mating season, so moose are infused with hormonal energy.

Behind schedule and halfway across the province on a rural road that festered with potholes, we learned that the road had been closed. We needed to take a different route. My driver thought it exciting; I became preoccupied with moose.

Would we make it before nightfall?

In the lounge of our hotel in Fredericton that night, over a glass of wine, we marveled that we had not seen one moose.

Well, OK. I did see one.


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A Prince of an Island

By cheri

imageThe Confederation Bridge–all eight miles of it–links New Brunswick and the Canadian mainland with Prince Edward Island. Here, on this small isle where approximately 135 thousand people live, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, along with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, were formed as the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

The sand and earth here are rich warm red clay color, accentuated by the lush green grass which rolls out like a fertile carpet to every body of water that cradles the island shores. Other than a pastoral drive through the tidy Amish country years ago, I have never seen such pride of ownership of houses large or small anywhere in all of my travels.

The economy is fed from the sea and the land. Mussels, oysters, lobsters, scallops and fresh fish can be found at the end of every dock and harbor. Corn, wheat, and new potatoes are the primary foods grown here although we saw cauliflower and wine grapes planted in orderly rows.

The Malpeque Harbor, home of the Malpeque Oyster which won Best in Show at the 1900 Paris World's Fair

The Malpeque Harbor, home of the Malpeque Oyster, which won Best in Show at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair. The land serves up a variety of vegetables but the new potato is Queen of Prince Edward Island.

How one tends to one’s property, be it an apartment, cottage, or farm says a great deal about the person. It’s safe to say that the residents of PEI appreciate order and precision.

The Victoria Lighthouse on the Argyle Shore of PEI.

The Victoria Lighthouse on the Argyle Shore of PEI.

Winters in PEI are frigid. Last year, over 400 cm of snow fell. The wood stove and wood stack are an architectural feature of most homes here.

Winters in PEI are frigid. Last year, over 400 cm of snow fell. The wood stove and wood stack are an architectural feature of most homes here.

I imagine no one who lives here suffers from island fever.

Beaches are vacant, hugged by a warm shoulder of sand dunes and cooled by balmy gulf winds and refreshing waters.

A reddish beach on the Northwestern shore/

A reddish beach on the Northwestern shore.

A stroll down the beach by Crowbush Cove with only the seabirds as our companions could not have been more perfect.

Some lucky lobster will not be caught in this trap, washed up from the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Some lucky lobster will not be caught in this trap, washed up from the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

You may remember my literary gaffe in mislabeling the novel Anne of Green Gables.

Thanks to my friend Richard, I didn’t try to find the House of the Green Gables here on PEI!

Instead, we followed a line of tourists, many of them Japanese, in our search for the house described in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel.

According to the literature, every room in this reconstruction is exactly how LM Montgomery described it.

According to the literature, every room in this reconstruction is exactly how LM Montgomery described it.

While there, we just so happened to meet Anne Shirley, the orphan who, in 1908, came to live with a middle-aged brother and sister, Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert. They had hoped to adopt a boy to help with the farm work but instead found themselves keeping company with one of literature’s most beloved characters.


I asked Anne why so many Japanese tourists made the pilgrimage to Cavendish to tour the house and visit New London, the birthplace of LM Montgomery.


She did not know that answer. All she could bubble about was the Haunted Forest and Lover’s Lane. Her bubbling intensified to gushing, so much so that I headed to the gift shop to buy my own copy of Anne of Green Gables.

Hanako Muriako’s 1952 translation of the novel into Japanese shortly after the horrors of WWII became a hit with Japanese girls and young adult women, perhaps looking for an idyllic salve to heal the wounds of displacement and depression. These girls and women told their daughters and so on and so on, so the next generation of Japanese tourist is still coming to see the red-haired girl and house with green gables. If you are interested in more of the story of this translation, you can find it on the internet.

We said “So long” to Anne and headed out in search of one of my favorite images–hay coils.

Prince Edward Island’s hay coils were like dollops of wheat candy to the eye.


We leave this pristine prince of an island tomorrow and head for the French Canadian coast of New Brunswick.

photo by Hizzoner, 2015.

photo by Hizzoner, 2015.

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The Bay of Fundy from a Scallop’s Point of View

Alma, New Brunswick, at high tide.

Alma, New Brunswick, at high tide.

by cheri

I was born just outside of Digby, Nova Scotia. Perhaps you have eaten some of my landsmen, Digby Scallops, long revered as the choicest in the world. I now reside in New Brunswick, across from Digby on the bottom of the wild Bay of Fundy, hiding from the dredges that scrape us from the sandy bottom of the seas. Starfish, too, enjoy Digby scallops.

My curvy shell, object of adoration and art, allows me to swim. We bivalves are grateful for our bi.

My blue eyes, all 100 of them, match that boat you see above, floating in the glassy water of high tide.

Although I don’t have a brain, I get along fairly well with my brawn  and sturdy feminine shell. As you can imagine, I am a terrific swimmer and have managed to survive here in Atlantic Canada, one of the hubs of world scallop  production. The number of us here is staggering which could be because our sex life begins at age two. Life is good.

The tide is out here on the Bay of Fundy. Note the 25 or so feet difference.

The tide is out here on the Bay of Fundy. Note the 25 or so feet difference.

Silly people come from all parts abroad to witness the six-hour tidal contractions. Why, some of these travelers photograph the sticky red beaches left with the Bay pulls out.


High above the Bay of Fundy on a cloudy day.

High above the Bay of Fundy on a cloudy day.

Next time you order scallops instead of crab or lobster, make sure you ask if they are Digby scallops.

We are special.

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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.

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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?


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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!

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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.





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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


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, of course.

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

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