Road Trip

When I was in college I fell in love with many things. No, Beer was not one of them. There is a saying…”Half the fun is getting there”. It should be amended to “Sometimes getting there is as much fun”. It takes nothing away from there. It also depends on where one is going of course.

Driving home was about 3.5 hrs with no weather delays. It was 210 miles. Those first few miles were by familiar places, the places I grew up with. Next, getting to Interstate 495 northbound until hitting Interstate 93 for a fairly straight line starting from the northern suburbs of Boston, into the well developed exurbs of southeastern New Hampshire. The ride in New Hampshire was the transformation of mind. I always preferred going back to school as opposed to home. I always knew that if I could escape the Boston Metropolitan area of over 4 million people with congested highways, people driving like they are in Mad Max, and the general anxiety that is a busy area…….I would be fine.

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As I would pass the far flung fingers that the Boston area hand touched into New Hampshire…I could see the road for its beauty and my blood pressure would drop. Traffic thins considerably and the journey is only half over as hardwood and conifer trees claim back their justified space.

Interstate 93 goes through Franconia Notch in the White Mountains. The area itself is a micro climate. I have always thought of it as a gate into the north country of New England. This magnificient masterpiece of glaciation some 15,000 years ago……. a calm washed over me like a gentle wave kissing the sand on your favorite beach.

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I broke down in New Hampshire in the middle of a Nor’easter about 10 miles south of Franconia Notch on a very cold Sunday night in January 2001. This is dedicated to that instance….

Upon a straight line carved by mans order

I traveled North. Connecting , breaking nature…..

Immense stone cuts miles in the deep wood of wind and snow

I am at your fate, mechanical beast

I stood as a ghost surrounded snowflakes

Fingers felt not the touch of winter’s bite on my skin

In this post glaciation land of four seasons

I can find only many reasons

Why I am at one with the spectacle which is nature.

At peace with the unknown…….

I did break down that very windy and cold night in 2001 with a heavy snow blowing. I decided to walk it, however I realized it was dark and my flashlight was dead. Nobody could see me until they would be on top of me and not in a good way if I were to traverse Interstate 93 with 1/4 visibility or less. I had a car full of warm clothes, and I was almost always fully prepared for breaking down. This was an almost always one of those nights.

The first few cars I owned were the kind you held your breath a little over the slightest sign that your car was about to say “I just do not feel like going any further”.  I had plenty of warm clothes which was great for the weather, but a source of light was needed. Nobody had passed me in over an hour. Perhaps I should not have driven in this. Sympathy for me? Probably not much deserved.

I watched a lot of MacGyver. I always liked how Richard Dean Anderson never needed a gun to beat the enemy. That was not a political statement, just the truth. So I looked around and found my duct tape. I am one of those that uses duct tape like it is going out of style. Call me “Red Green ” if you know the reference. I stated that I love music in my first blog. I had many cds on the ride as usual. I took about a two dozen cds and duct taped them all together. They were a giant reflector as I had taped the non playing side. I started walking.

There had been one vehicle in 1.5 hrs that passed me and it was a semi barreling into the blanket of falling winter. Not encouraging.

I trudged in a foot of snow for about 2 miles walking in what was the right hand side of the right lane as the breakdown lane was under about 3 feet of formally plowed snow. Not a car had passed me. I knew I had about 7 miles to go but this was dangerous, reflector or no reflector. Suddenly I saw a glow behind me. I turned around to reflect the light. It was a black ford sedan. The person pulled to the side and said “I am a Woodstock, NH police officer, what are you doing out here? I said, “show me some ID” as in my mind I thought “So am I going to have to fight this guy if he is lying?”….He smiled and showed me his credentials as he was in plain clothes. After a few minutes of talking I accepted his ride to Woodstock so I could make some phone calls and get my vehicle towed to Vermont. I was still holding my mass of duct taped cd madness. Aerosmith connected to Liz Phair connect to The Beatles ans so forth. He asked me “What the hell is that thing?”. I told him it was the only I way I could show I was on the road as I had no working flashlight. He laughed and said “If it were not for that thing I would not have seen you”. The visibilty at this time was down to about 30 feet or so. We are talking very heavy snow. I made it up to Vermont by 3am that next morning.

I made it back. To the only place I could ever call a second home as for some reason nature calls to me up there. The howling voice of winter of the crystallized land yielded to  a sunny Monday of blue skies and promise. The place where people not only called to me, but the land itself, no matter the season.

Below is a picture of Lake Willoughby in Westmore VT, about 20 miles north of where I went to school and not more than 15 miles from Quebec.

Willoughvalle Inn 2

Thank you for reading.

Cheers,

Jason

It’s Who I Am

I like to think I had a good childhood. I would imagine most people would like to look back and find pleasurable memories of growing up. We are all so different, yet the same. One part of the world to another. Over 6 billion stories. This is mine.

My great grandfather on my mother’s side immigrated from the Lombardy region of Northern Italy in February of 1908. He was a stonemason. He crossed the Atlantic on a boat that would later be sunk by the Germans in WWI. My great grandfather passed through Ellis Island. Over 40 percent of us in the United States are related to someone who did. From Ellis Island, he made his way to Boston where he found work and in 1909 his wife, also an Italian of recent migration. They had a few children. One of which was my grandfather in 1914. He was born in Boston.

Times became very tough in the city as the great depression had arrived late in 1929. By the early 1930’s my great grandfather purchased a house in a very rural town 25 miles west of Boston. This was not typical for that time period or demographic. Yet he did this, and by late 1930’s my grandfather, who by this time was in his 20’s, moved to that town in the large house. The house was and is still a two family, three story house built in the 1880s. The posts in the cellar for supports are still the original U.S. Army surplus used in the construction nearly 130 years ago. Along with the large rocks used as foundations, one could almost see a root cellar in here.

World War II came for Massachusetts on a sunny, blue sky windless day with temperatures around 30 degrees on December  7, 1941. My great grandfather stayed, too old now to fight, stayed behind while his son went on to England, France and finally Germany by the end of the war in 1945. My grandfather was very proud of the effort he gave defending this country’s ideals and existence.

Shortly after the war, in Feb of 1946, my grandfather met, and very quickly married my grandmother. She was from Framingham, Massachusetts. She was the third of four daughters of Italian Immigrants. After they married, they settled on to the first floor of the familiar two family, three story house.

They had two children. My uncle and my mother. They were raised in this house with their grandparents, who by 1961 had both passed away. My uncle lived there until 1966 when he joined the Army. My mother, after graduating high school, worked in a local factory while living in the family house until 1973 when she met my dad. He was a mechanic from West Palm Beach, Florida. His family was primarily Irish with a few English relatives of origin 30 miles outside Manchester, England. He came to Massachusetts in 1965 after his time in the Air Force. He missed the real Vietnam. Thank God.

I consider myself lucky. I have concrete reasons. I was raised until I was four years old in Framingham, Massachusetts then moved to what was now the family house where my grandparents lived. I remember the day like it was yesterday. That sunny Saturday of a promising Labor Day weekend in 1981. It was the greatest decision my parents ever made, as we moved into the Second and Third floors. It was home. It always had been.

My time growing up was spent with my grandparents during many hours of the week. It was watching the Boston Celtics on TV with my grandfather. Nobody could beat Larry Bird.  It was Sunday nights drinking coffee with my grandfather as he would tell stories of World War II. It was my grandmother, the nicest woman I think I have ever met. She welcomed anyone into her home. She never looked down on anyone and never even swore, which is nearly unheard of in a family made of primarily of Italians. She prided herself with her homemade pasta. It was the best. She would watch my friends and I play basketball from her porch on those first pleasant spring days until the winds of winter were whispering over the land. Even in those dark winter days, I can still imagine myself quietly going down the back stairs. The outside a cold kind of quiet. My feet touching the softness of the rug as the aroma of a Sunday evening dinner foretold me of the future. One that was always pleasant. My grandparents brought a flavor to my life that was vital in who I am now. My grandmother passes away on a cold, damp November 8th, 1994. My grandfather passed on June 19, 1997. It was the first time I saw that a Sunny day could be the most painful kind. They both lived well into their 80’s and did not suffer. What did live on was the infinite amount of wisdom and life experience they had bestowed.

I never met my father’s parents. My father’s dad died in 1949 and my dad’s mom died in September of 1989. My dad came from a different culture. A different world. One in which he didn’t have electricity until he was seven, living on the outskirts of West Palm Beach, Florida. Remember, this is 1949 Florida. My dad was a hardworking mechanic for forty years. He knew just about everyone there was to know in a 2 mile radius of the spring shop he managed. He was a Southerner, but he did not act like one when it came to winter. He loved it. Yes, he loved car racing and fishing (so do I). Here was a man who grew rarely seeing a frost, let alone snow. He came North, bought a good truck, and a Fisher Plow. He plowed for a few towns in the area but primarily he plowed for public and private businesses. When he saw my interest in Weather/Meteorology by the time I was four years old, he helped it. When I was seven until April 1997 I would routinely go out with him. Plowing all night in Heavy Snow, stopping for coffee, meeting his friends. They were all characters. Folks from Boston Edison, police, and other town workers. I learned quickly that I was comfortable meeting people at a fairly young age. My dad was a great guy. I say was, because he died of Lung Cancer on November 29, 2010. A week after his Sixty-Eighth Birthday. It was more than hard. It still is.

I grew up, college took me away, then I came back, only a few years later to move away from that special house. However, not that far at all. Yesterday I was talking in person, to my three year old nephew. My sister and I were explaining to him (yeah…explaining to a three year old) that he was the Fifth Generation to have lived in this house. He smiled. He said “Great Great Grampy?”. It was adorable. I can remember very well when I was three. I am told my memory is a bit scary in terms of how well I remember dates, times, places, people, etc. There are some things we should never forget, That one thing is family. My mom owns the house now. She lives there still, on the Second and Third floors and whenever I go back, just to say “Hello” I see so many memories… I consider myself lucky to have grown up in a town that was safe. We played outside all the time. There were about ten kids in the neighborhood. Those long summers of the 1980’s lasted forever. My best friend, and STILL best friend, grew up across the street from me. I don’t know how much of that still goes on. The more, the better.

The echos, the emotions, the laughter of voices long since extinguished by time still live in those memories of who were there. I can descend into the unfinished cellar. Unfinished by decorative standards, but quite content and complete with memories. The distant footsteps or muffled voice of my grandparents who I love, upstairs. If I listen quietly, I might as well be back in time. The door closed the same. The light I turn on is as bright. The light flutter of frozen, crystallized water, the snowflakes…….sound the same as they hit the windows at night in a bitter gust of wind in a Nor’easter. The furnace kicks in with a distant rumble, and I am awakened back to 2014.

They sound as they did when I was four. I am one person, reflecting on my stored memories of people gone, in a place where they seem to still live. I am sure, I am quite ordinary in that sense. No matter the season, no matter the reason, If I find myself on this road, I thank thee who came before. Thankful there are loved ones still, behind this door.

A few photos….

My Grandfather in a family photograph in 1924 with his father, mother, and sister. His sister would die in a tragic horse riding accident in 1944, at the height of World War Two, My grandfather did not get to see her be buried. He did however, name my mom after her.

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My grandmother, on the right around 1930 with her brother Larry in the front and her three sisters.

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This last picture jumps ahead to yesterday. Just a quiet, cold late winter day. The cars have changed. Trees die. Trees grow. Pavement crumbles, It is rebuilt. Time never erodes the memories I have. The winter chill feels the same. It never.. has felt cold here when in the warmth of loved ones. Perhaps it is why I love winter.

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One last bit. In the garage, there are names carved in the wooden walls. These names were carved some nearly 50 years ago now by by my Uncle’s friends when they would also play basketball in the driveway. A few of the names are teachers I would have in High School. In fact, about 75 percent of the teachers I had and the staff at the school, my Mom and Uncle had. Timing on this was kind of amusing but looking back, I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. All of it.

As always, Thank you for reading.

Cheers,

Jason

Timeless

Timeless. Something that never fades away. Its importance is a constant. It can be varying things. One of them is a “place”

Do you have a certain place in which you have visited in your lifetime that struck emotional connections like no other? These unexpected “fall in love” localities. I do. I have three. This is about one of them. It is Burke Mountain in Burke, Vermont. A beautiful  3,270 foot signal that you are in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. It is a gem. It shines like an arctic mirror in January. It blooms a lush summer green in July. It is the place where the first glimpse of a new day emerges. It is a place that soaks up the waning sun’s rays of light so beautifully. Almost as if it was just planned that way.

I first found my eyes on that mountain on the last Saturday in July of 1996. It is tempting to go into my whole story on my trip to the Northeast Kingdom and first days visiting LSC. That is for another time. This is about Burke Mountain.

Perhaps I can convey my feelings in this manner:

I first saw you under the innocent July sun. The rays of light basking in your green beauty. A light wind was the whisper of beckoning. I knew it was you all along. My heart found you. How majestic to be in your presence. How you glow in the beauty of sunflowers and star light. A kaleidoscope of color in the setting sun, streaming clouds above like wave marks in the sand of a beach. How stunning you are. You amazing attractive beacon of eternal inspiration of hope and peace.

There are places we go in life which we never connect with. There are places we enjoy, places we like. Then there are the special few, that are your places on Earth.

The following photo of Burke Mountain in the right portion of the picture was taken in early December 1998 on a cold, wintry late afternoon from Vail Hill in Lyndonville on the LSC campus, approximately 7 miles away. Thank you for reading.

Cheers,

Jason

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So It Begins

Blogs Blogs, everywhere there are blogs. Welcome to the 21st Century Jason (me). What makes this blog interesting? I cannot say. It is not for me to say. My intentions with this blog is to offer an insight on how I see the natural beauty of New England and Life through writing and occasionally some poetry coupled with my intense longtime hobby and understanding of Meteorology. My opinions on issues mixed in there as well. Who can resist that one? What it all comes down to is my expression of how I see the world, what I feel, how I hurt, how I love,  and aspects I have not yet thought of.

It is a beautiful winter night in New England. It is cold but not extremely so. The landscape is one in which the 2 foot blanket of snow glistens in the moonlight. There’s a silent something about it. Tranquility. It reminds me of my years spent in Vermont. It takes me back to cherished friends, some still in touch, others gone. The simple variables of a winter night can awaken thoughts like an avalanche and before you know it…you are daydreaming and saying “I remember that..I miss that person” or maybe “Those were great times” (with a smile).  Perhaps John Lennon said it best in relation to this in the song “In My Life” :

“There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all”

This song captures how I see the world. It does this, perhaps closer, than any song. On the subject of Music, my heart is in the 1980s. New Wave, British Synthpop, Rap, Top 40….however I am not confined to just a decade. My interests range like the four seasons in New England….”Cold as Ice”….. by Foreigner….upbeat springtime like “My Girl” by The Temptations, Summer so sultry as  Madonna was hot in 1984…and September like……with “September” by Earth, Wind and Fire.

Welcome to my blog. Thank you for reading.

Cheers,

Jason