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in bed with cocoa and some bright light bulbs

ready for trick or treaters

Usually I’m traveling too much to get additionally disoriented by the time change. This year I did take a quick trip down to Massachusetts (hiking and checking out the big GOREDSOX city with Jim) over time-change weekend but was back at home to watch it get dark really early tonight. I’m happy there’s nothing I really need to power through.

The last few weeks have mostly been a flurry of baseball-watching and realizing that I’d been stuck on finishing one book for a month. The book was really great [title: A Calculating People] a story about how people learned math in Colonial times in the US and how that gradually changed over time so that now Americans are seen as somewhat number-obsessed by people from elsewhere. However, it was also dense and sort of put my reading gear into low. Once I wrapped it up, I was raring to start a bunch of other books of various stripes and finished a lot of them quickly. Knowing there’s a pattern means that I no longer spend much time worrying “Geez, have I just finally stopped reading?” though those thoughts creep in from time to time.

Similarly, last year when we didn’t do dress-up-and-hand-out-candy with my friends in the neighborhood, I was a bit concerned that maybe we were done with that particular tradition. I like traditions and I like patterns. I’m that lady who goes into the sandwich shop and orders “the usual” and gets (secretly) a little out of sorts if there’s a new person who makes it differently (it’s not them, it’s me, I know that; my coping technique is unstoppable). iTunes updates rattle me. So it was not just a good time but a relief to go hand out candy to hundreds of local kids all while dressed as a bee. And then we retired to eat pizza and talk about Halloweens past and what costumes we might think about for next year. It was a good toe-dip into the season of traditions and expectations and events. A few weeks til the next one, and I’m in bed with a good book.

Virgo Month of Leisure 2013 – fifteen leisurely years

I made one of those scrapbooky type images of what my summer looked like. I’ve been back in Vermont for a solid week and it’s been great to be back. It was also great to be away. When I was a kid we’d always take a vacation of some sort of in the summer but it was often to visit family or friends (and later with my dad, to sit on a random beach someplace) and wasn’t for very long. After last year’s enforced broken-ankle-summer-vacation I decided I liked the idea of being in a geographically distinct place for the summer, so I did it again this year. Had some friends over. Visited diners. Had more friends over. Visited libraries. Cooked out on the grill. Went on woodsy hikes. Peered at birds, bunnies, frogs and the occasional turkey and cat. Got some exercise. Vistied Nebraska (by plane) and St. Paul MN (by car). Pruned some wisteria. Cleaned bathrooms and did some of the never-ending work of keeping a big house in decent shape. It was fun. I think I’ll do it again next year. It sounds like a lot of stuff but it’s as close to leisure as I can probably get. Here’s a recap of past Virgo Months of Leisure, the time of year when I try, and often fail, to relax.

Larger version of this photo.
Top Row: Nebraska, kayaking, Westport stone wall
Next row: Birthday weekend. CHILDNADO weekend
Next row: Me in Cooperstown, the dearly departed Boo Radley on Kate’s new couch, Kate in the aerie, Jim at the end of the boardwalk
Next row: birdfeeder at sunset, UMass Dartmouth’s Carney Library
Next row: flowers, Fourth of July parade

summering

It’s been very nice to have a summer that isn’t mostly spent managing my and other people’s grief (with exceptions for the untimely demises of Boo Radley and Fred November) or my and other people’s broken ankles. I feel like I went at this summer with an aggressive zeal that is really not my usual tack but has been working out okay. As I wrote earlier, I did a lot of hiking. Now I’m a little worn out by hiking and have been doing a bunch of socializing. At some point in the past five years I have been slowly shifting from being more extroverted (I get energized by being with people, I get ootchy when I am alone) to introverted (I lose energy by being with people, I recharge batteries by being alone). This is probably a side effect of having an internet job and a steady boyfriend but also of just getting older. Time speeds up, I have more things on my own that I want to do and the places that I want to do them are not on anyone else’s beaten path (see also: hiking). But in any case, there’s been a lot going on.

- My friends from college are now at the point where their kids are old enough to happily travel. My dad’s place is sort of the perfect destination resort for the under-12 set, so we had a great weekend having a cookout, playing kid-bocce and making the best use of the giant beanbag imaginable. Two photos of the crew are on Flickr (1,2). The bulletin board here is covered with kid drawings and the patio is covered with cryptic chalk scribbles (is that a bat? a spider? a spiderbat?).
- My friend from high school (has it been 28 years? wowie!) and her wife were up in Vermont for their annual lake trip and I got to hang out and play robots with their son, toss tennis balls with the pup and learn all about bread ears. Our quiet evening together was interrupted by a badly sprained wrist (not mine!) so I got to hang out with Mr. 9 while everyone else took a trip to the emergency room.
- My sister and I decided to play Grown Up Ladies and we bought a couch together to put at Dad’s place and I finally got to go to Jordan’s Furniture after a lifetime of hearing their radio and TV ads.
- I performed my first wedding, for Rich Fairbanks and Rachel Westbrook. It went totally well. When I was a little kid one of the first non-family non-parents-of-friends couples I knew was the couple that lived next door in our two-family house: Rich and Rachel. When Rachel told me she’d met a guy she liked and told me his name, I had a good feeling about it. I included a photo and the service on my Vermont JP blog. If anyone wants to get married in Vermont and needs an officiant, I’ve got two and a half more years before I need to run for re-election and I think now I know what I’m doing.

Upcoming excitement includes a trip to Nebraska (shut up!) to talk to librarians about technology and then some friends visiting from far away (North Carolina via Maine) and then the usual People Up For Labor Day. If you’re reading this and you’re in the South Coast area and you’d like to have a hot dog with me, drop me a note (email preferred) and I can send details. I hope to do one more update before the Virgo Month of Leisure, but if the past few months are any indicator, I may be a bit busy.

Oh and a note about this image. I came back from a walk with Jim to find this little set of drawers and five wine glasses on my steps. I thought it was maybe from Rachel but it turns out it was from my landlady Ronni who has been deaccessioning some things. She tossed in this wonderful gigantic dictionary, remembering just where she got it on the Lower East Side some 40-50 years ago. I’m not sure where I’ll put it, but I just love the way it looks.

a little hiking

hummingbird at the feeder

At some point, I will max out what I am able to do with my iphone’s camera, but a combination of good luck, a steady hand and some good lighting have led to some impressive shots. This is one of them. Summer is shaping up pretty okay. I am back from a speedy road trip to St Paul MN via the Baseball Hall of Fame and a motel with unadvertised free kittens. I got to spend a few days in the twin cities on both sides of the river and saw lots of libraries and a few good diners. Was waiting to post this until my photos were up but they’re still not all up so here we are.

I’ve been back in Westport trying to go to as many places for quickie day hikes as I can. I had to get over my general aversions to 1) hiking alone and 2) driving someplace to go hiking. I found a good day pack that holds just enough stuff and have gotten better at finding and evaluating trails, printing maps, following trail directions and signs, and keeping bug and sun hazards to a minimum. I’ve always really liked the outdoors but have rarely felt competent enough to go for long hikes, where “long” for me is more than an hour or so. I am gradually getting over that. Here are a few recent hikes I’ve been on, left here as much for my own memory-jogging as for information that might be helpful to others.

Helpful websites – a few sites are the jumping off points for most of my exploration

- The Westport Land Trust has a “places to walk” page with local walks
- The Trustees of Reservations do land trust stuff at a state level and have a places to visit section
- Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust has a trails section
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts just redid parts of their website leading to a lot of broken links from Google but they have this list of places to hike and this general parks page.

So, wishing I had been doing this for previous seasonal hiking, here’s a list of where I’ve been so far.

- Westport Town Farm – really just a lovely walk through a field but it’s one of the prettiest fields around.
- Dunham’s Brook Conservation Area – an actual place to walk that I can walk TO. A few short paths one of which I think would be longer but ends at what is now a cornfield
- Old Harbor Wildlife Refuge – a short set of trails that connect two roads. Teeny parking lot which had a slightly odd dude in it when I was there.
- Herb Hadfield Conservation Area – another “connect two roads” set of trails. More well-marked than most.
- Bird Street Conservation Area in Stoughton – about halfway between Jim and me (thanks MeetWays!), a nice simple trail that goes some neat places.
- I was put off from visiting the Freetown Fall River State Forest because of the big “crime” section of their Wikipedia page (though seriously, escaped emu?) and wound up at the Copicut Woods instead which were totally abandoned on the 95° day when I was there.
- Yesterday despite flash flood warnings–nothing like a cell phone warning alarm going off just as you’ve started your hike–we walked around Ponkapoag Pond which is part of the Blue Hills Reservation. In the pouring rain. This trail is less than half an hour from downtown Boston so I suspect this is the only way we would have gotten it to ourselves the way we did. Or maybe it was the flash floods closing down all the roads. Had a great time and found the best boardwalk I’ve ever been on. Fascinating part of Massachusetts with some neat (and somewhat appalling) history.

Got a few more Westport/Dartmouth walks planned over the next few weeks but they will have to wait until my boots dry off which, by the looks of things, may take some time. I’m sure Sarah Scully did not think that she’d be kicking off a whole hiking extravaganza by gifting me these boots several years ago, but that’s exactly what seems to have happened.

the 56 step plan to cooler sleeping

summer swallows

So I’ve been in Westport for a few weeks now. The days sort of run together which is the good news/bad news. I know what day it is because of my work schedule but not always what week it is and June has me all confused because there are five weekends which seems mathematically impossible. ALA is happening in Chicago which I’m sure is going to be a terrifically good time, but I am missing it. I swear I will go to another ALA conference when there is one within driving distance of where I live.

And speaking of driving, it’s really terrific to not have a broken ankle this summer! I have a FOAF (friend of a friend) who needs a car driven from Vermont to St. Paul MN and I’m going to take a mini vacation (as opposed to a Mini vacation) and take a little road trip right after the 4th of July parade in Randolph.

In the meantime, I’m teaching myself how to prune with a pair of loppers, a stepladder and an unruly wisteria. So far so good, I think. And Jim and I managed to get two kayaks on the roof of my car and go kayaking in the Westport River which was a thing I thought might be impossible. I mainly thought this because I had to break down the whole enterprise into steps–and there were a lot of them–and then think about the myriad ways things could go wrong. Which brings me to sleeping.

I’ve always been a weird sleeper, I like a ton of blankets, absolute dark and absolute quiet. I’m happiest of the room is cool and not too muggy which is a thing you don’t really get to choose in the middle of summer when you live nearish to the ocean and your bedroom is over the garage and right under the roof. I like to sleep in a hat because it’s bright in the morning. So one of my many routines here is to close up the room in the morning and then open it up at night to get the cool air in. And then manipulate the air with a number of fans for optimal air exchange. I’m too much of a cheap hippie to get an AC unit. I can get the room about ten degrees cooler in a few hours which is usually okay.

Unlike my place in Vermont which has eight windows total, the place I sleep in Westport (the “cottage” the set of rooms around and above the garage) has twenty-two windows, two doors, five ceiling fans (with two directional settings and three speed settings), one exhaust fan, two free-standing fans (with two directional settings and three speed settings). Most of the windows have curtains, some have two sets. So trying to figure out what the optimal setup is for this situation requires manipulation of a lot of variables. And the weather changes. All of this is to say that once I’ve hopped all over the place opening and closing windows and curtains and switching fans on and off and making them blow backwards and forwards, I am usually pretty tired. Some people count sheep.

looking back, towards future me

I was wrong about spring being here which is no surprise (there was one more snow) but this week has been nice. I even took my bike to the transfer station along with a tiny bag of trash and that was good for a few laughs from the pickup truck brigade. A few things have happened this month since I got back from Kansas. I did my last (3rd) talk for the season in Plymouth New Hampshire. Went well and I had a good time. I want to put together some “What’s what in copyright and fair use” talks for next season. I also took a few trips down to Massachusetts, see family, Jim, dad’s place. Counting the days til we can close the estate and move on in some actual way but everyone told me to be patient and I have been. A funny thing happened last week, along those lines.

As you may or may not know, Flickr did a big redesign recently. I’m on the fence about some of it, I sort of feel that being a person who lives on the web means I have to accept that things will sometimes change (as readers of my blog you have to accept that I redesign every half-decade or so). They also redesigned their account structure. Previously free accounts got space for 200 visible photos. If you uploaded one more, one would drop off (not deleted, just not visible) unless you upgraded to a paid account. Paid accounts got what basically seemed like unlimited storage. My dad had a paid account and had uploaded about 4000 photos that he’d had scanned from old slides, a lot of neat old family stuff some of it before my time entirely. I’ve been pretty good at paying bills that come due on the estate but that one escaped me. So suddenly instead of 4000 photos there were 200 and only the most recent ones. I wasn’t sure of the login for that account (I have most of the others) and the whole thing was just weighing on me along with all the other “When is this huge stack of paperwork going to be over?!” executrix concerns. “Man, I should really take care of that…” I’d think.

Anyhow. The redesign/reconfiguring meant that all of the sudden, nearly two years to the day after my dad died, all the free accounts had unlimited storage which means all the old photos came back. And the timing was good. And I spent a lot of time clicking around looking at photos of my family when they were younger, from before I was born, when my dad was just a kid. This is a photo I’d never seen before, it’s my grandmother’s stepmother who we always called Nana and my grandfather’s mother Agnes Wylie West who I never met who was from Vermont. Both from my dad’s side. It’s not quite “awesomepeoplehangingouttogether” but in jessamynworld it sort of is. There’s a photo on my mom’s Flickr page that might have my other two great-grandmothers at a photo of her parents’ wedding.

I was having a great talk with my friend Joe from college yesterday about how wonderful it is to be basically middle-aged. I like feeling I know who I am. I like having the health and the resources to do the things I want. My slightly fading memory is more helpful than harmful at this stage. I enjoy my nerdy hobbies. I have interesting friends. He pointed out a thing that I had somehow never noticed–and that probably everyone knows about me but me–which is that I’ve sort of always gravitated towards “things that older people do” for lack of a better term and then been really interested in those things and excitedly sharing them with other people. Blogging and Twitter nonwithstanding, I could list a handful of examples off the top of my head: The 251 Club; The Odd Fellows Hall; being a Justice of the Peace; my roommate/landlady situations; town parades; terrariums. I’m not really sure what it is about any of those things, and never noticed a trend at all until he had pointed it out, but I think it bodes well for future me.

finally

There are a lot of fake springs but I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the real one now. Trees are all popping out their leaves. Neighbors are all rooting around in their yards. Birds have fled the birdfeeders for Real Live Bugs out in the world someplace. I got out the newspaper and spray cleaner and scrubbed their suet smears off the window so I can see them better when they get back.

I went on my first on-an-airplane trip since last June sometime. After all my talk about desiring to travel less I realized that the best way to not travel is to not travel and said no to a bunch of things. Or no thanks, because that’s me. The downside of course is that I like giving talks, telling people what I think, meeting other librarians, and going new places. The downside is that I find travel sort of tiring, I like my home, and one little wrench in the works (a late flight leading to a late arrival leading to a delayed parking lot pickup) can mean I’m driving home from New Hampshire at 1:30 am thinking “Was this trip really necessary?” like one of those old cartoons.

But it worked out really well. I gave a keynote speech to a group of librarians from the North East Kansas Library System about copyright and the work I’ve been doing at Open Library. I got to stay in Lawrence at a nice AirBnB place and meetup with MetaFilter folks. Then I hung out for a few extra days in Manhattan and saw colleagues and friends and ate tamales. This image is from a hike I took out on the Konza Prairie with my friend Donna. I went to Kansas four times in 2007-2008 and had a weird kind of amnesia about some of it. So coming back felt familiar and new all at the same time. It’s sort of a weird thing to say but if I had to go get a library job in a state that was not Vermont, Kansas would be one of the top three places I would look. They have a cool state library system, a lot of librarians doing really interesting things (David Lee King does amazing things at Topeka Shawnee Public Library and Donna is getting great stuff done at KState) and a population that seems to be really into their libraries, though I suppose most populations are.

I came back to exactly zero snow on the ground (less than when I left), a bunch of postcards from people all over (mainly MetaFilter, for dealing with some difficult weeks) and friends who had been scheming things to do while I had been away. Jim came up this weekend and we attempted a straight up a (small) mountain hike and mostly did it. Now on the lookout for new mountains to climb, new things to see. Thanks to Kansas librarians and other friends for making my trip so great.