Saturday, December 27, 2014


The squirrels were, quite simply, frantic before our first snow; lots of last-minute gathering, storing and burying of nuts all over my back lawn.

Now, after our first snows have come and gone and we’ve got bare ground again, they’re working from caches in hollows of trees along the property line that separates my land from my neighbor’s. They’re also digging out individually buried nuts that they’ve tucked a mere half-inch below the ground in my yard. I know they sniff them out all winter long—they can even find them beneath a foot or more of snow, either by smell or by some miraculous internal mapping system!

And now that the leaves are down and the maples and oaks along my street are stark, I can see the drays hanging in the branches—there’s lots of squirrel real estate in my neighborhood this year.
Built of twigs, leaves, grass and even dried flower stalks, these winter drays, wedged in the crotches of uppermost branches of the trees, are as much as thirty feet above ground. They look like messy humps of brown, dead leaves (nothing fancy here) but they’re wonderfully engineered: twigs and branches woven together, lined with leaves and grass and even pine needles for warmth and comfort. The entrance is on the underside (to keep out the rain and snow) facing away from the prevailing winter winds.
 Inside, there’s room for one or two North American grays. They prefer to live alone, but during our cold winters, they sometimes double up for warmth. There’s also a mating season in late January/early February, so having larger quarters might be an enticement—goodness knows a larger house would certainly impress me!

We have a healthy community of grays here in my neighborhood. Lots of us have birdfeeders, and some of us have come to the realization that we feed more squirrels than birds—squirrels are little thieves, indeed, and professional acrobats when it comes to figuring out how to get into our feeders. I’ve seen them leap, twist, dive out of trees onto feeders, watched them hang upside down from wires and perches, even leap from roofs and fences!
And when the supply of seed runs low, they’ll let you know—they’ll even sit on the back porch and screech at you to fill your feeders, those sassy little beggars!
And we do.

After all, we wouldn’t want the neighborhood to go to seed.

Saturday, December 20, 2014


I wasn’t very old, six or seven, maybe—but I have a distinct memory of sitting at my desk at the McClellan School in Portland, Maine in the early 1950s, a jar of glue (remember the glue jars with the little applicator brushes stuck to the inside of the lid?) and that white, gloppy paste we all used to eat whenever the teacher wasn’t looking.
And I remember the aptly named Mrs. Little, my teacher; she was a teeny woman, but when she told you to do something, you did it—she had the power of God within that little body.
And I remember struggling with the red and green lettering: “Merry” in red, “Christmas” in green (although I blew that one, clearly); and then...
...the highlight: my name—not my nickname, but my real, formal, given first name—in alternating red and green!

Now, the best part of this Christmas card is the fact that my mother saved it...buried it in the bottom of her jewelry box for me to find sixty years later.

My best wishes to all of you,


Friday, December 5, 2014


It’s amazing what a Sepia Saturday prompt can reveal!
          I spent some time rummaging today, thinking that I might be able to find a photo of members of my family on stairs; imagine my surprise when I found these three shots (I actually found more, but these three were the best).

The first is of the Gould children of Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts. It’s a shot taken at the summer house in East Boothbay, Maine in 1900: Margaret and Howard are the youngest ones on the bottom step; the others (left to right) are Richard, Prescott, Allen and Gardner (my grandfather, who’s about 15 in this shot), the oldest. I’m not sure why Margaret is covering her ears; I just love their shiny shoes—Margaret’s with button laces. The boys all have short pants with stockings bagging at the knees, except for my grandfather, who’s old enough to be in long pants.

And then I found one of my father (Gardner, Jr.) sitting between his mother and his sister Shirley – again at the summer house in East Boothbay in, say, 1938-39; my father’s in baggy pants and loafers (such a fashionable look back then); his sister equally fashionable in tailored pants – just like Katherine Hepburn!

To finish the triptych, my brother, me and my mother on the back steps of my parents’ first house in Needham, Massachusetts; this is in 1950 or so. John’s all decked out in his cowboy shirt (with slide tie) and gloves; I’m in my bathrobe, recovering from the mumps!
          And that black-and-white cocker spaniel is Ferdinand, the wonderful dog who loved Oreos (see my post of November 23).

So here we are: three generations of Goulds, the oldest born more than one hundred years ago (1886); the youngest in 1946 and still going strong in 2014 (me).

Just think of all the stairs we’ve climbed!

(To see what other Sepians have found, visit