Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Autumn here today, gone tomorrow and back again

Nearly two weeks ago, during the Columbus Day holiday break for New Englanders, Susie and I gassed up the Mini (not much bother there) and headed west to the Catskills. The plan was to see our friends Don and Gloria in Prattsville, NY. The weather not only cooperated but added to the pleasure of the drive by providing an incredibly gorgeous sky under which to motor.

We drove the Mass Turnpike to near Lenox, MA of Tanglewood fame and then spent the next couple of hours cruising the back-roads in the Berkshires. We drove through Stockbridge (Normal Rockwell country), and soon found ourselves passing into the Empire State on route 23, heading to Prattsville. It wasn't long before we crossed I-87 (the New York Thruway as its fondly called here) and quickly began our climb into the much-revered Catskill Mountains, passing every so close to the village of Catskill itself.

A few minutes after passing through the artsy village of Windham we found our turn at County Road no. 4, just short of Prattsville itself and were soon at our destination -- a slice of heaven in upstate New York.

We spent a beautiful evening with friends not seen for far too long -- enjoying a wonderful meal by the wood stove, a bottle of good wine and even better conversation; life doesn't get much better than that.

The sky was clear and the night air filled with a silent cold as we turned in -- although a quick step out onto the back deck let us foolish urban dwellers see the stars for the first time probably since we were in Colorado a year ago this August. A treat to be sure.

No sooner had we returned to the Ocean State Monday than the weather turned raw, temps fell dramatically through the succeeding week and the rain came in sheets last weekend. And snow was seen in New England, as close as southern Massachusetts.

But once again Nature had the laugh on us -- Indian summer returned with warm days, and sparkling blue skies. I have the evidence to prove it from a recent stroll along the Providence River:

It's along this same stretch of river that you can also find the touching and very poignant Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial:

Not to forget, though, some Rhode Islanders need things made perfectly clear:

Monday, October 05, 2009

Dreaming of Spring in Paris, living Autumn in Providence

Color change seems a bit behind schedule in New England -- not that we know first-hand mind you; not like we did when we lived in Vermont. There, color meant everything of course: how far you were from tapping the nearest stand of maple trees to how far you were from mud season and black flies.

In Providence the arrival of Fall and the splash of color change seen here and there warns you that the grit and grime of urban living will soon be transmogrified into a covering of gray tending toward black that passes for snow. (All the more reason to daydream of Paris in the Springtime. . . . Now, we just need to do something about it.)

But at least the food in Providence is good, some of it very good and a few places serve truly great food, and for some of us that's the be-all and end-all of existence.

September flew by in a hurry to get to October it seems. Susie is trying to get a handle on a new raft of Fall desserts and I'm still collecting, sorting and tagging photographic images for a living.

A couple of weeks back we paid a short but oh so sweet visit to the nearby Blackstone Gorge.

Located just outside of Woonsocket in the little village of Blackstone, the aptly named Blackstone River passes through a rather spectacular gorge before finishing its short trek toward Providence and Narragansett Bay. (After all, one just doesn't expect to see a "gorge" anywhere near this part of New England.)

As my brother-in-law Dick has often pointed out to his history students, the Blackstone is largely responsible for much of this particular part of New England; the mills that sprang up along its banks, the canal that was created to move goods up and down the river all spurred the development of the villages that led to the cities dotted up and down the river's length. Back when textile was both king and queen of New England that is.

So, on a beautiful Sunday Susie and I head off for the short drive to the Gorge where we strolled and soaked up the sunshine and the beautiful blue sky that served as an incredible backdrop to the green all around us. If I seem to wax a bit poetic here, just remember we're urban dwellers now and are easily impressed at the sight of a handful of trees and bushes parked alongside a set of rushing rapids.

Aside from our tentative foray into the wilds of southern Massachusetts we've stayed pretty close to home. We did eat out at New Rivers last Friday evening; delicious food, as always, surpassed only by the welcoming atmosphere and warm hospitality -- thanks Bruce and Beau. It was the perfect way to close out a week that saw one of my colleagues announce he was taking a job closer to his home in Bristol, and closer to his daughter's daycare. I’ve watched Brad Bortone for the better part of a year now and can say with confidence born out of long observation that he not only possesses incredible writing skills, he's a talented young man of amazing wit and great promise. Take care Professor.

Anyway, we got October off to a proper start: Sunday evening Dick and Dorothy and Dorothy's old friend Grace came over for dinner. Grace and Dorothy were roommates in college and took their very first jobs together in Michigan; Grace teaching German and Dorothy 5th Grade. Like Dorothy Grace is retired now, seeking the good life by spending time with old friends.

What more could one ask?