The Kindness of Neighbors

I live in a small house on a small plot of land along the Concord River, although small is a relative term. The White House would be small next to Château de Chambord in France …

…and my property would be large in comparison to a Carolina Wren’s nest.

Cutest bird, evvvvaaaaaaa!

Carolina Wren

But I digress.

The reason I bring up the size of my living quarters is I need you to understand that being housebound in a small house on a small, but stunningly beautiful, lot is playing with my sanity. Actually playing with is not correct — being cloistered in my home and within the boundaries of my property line is wreaking havoc with my sanity.

Some days I shuffle down my front steps and around the yard. I purchased a second rollator just for this purpose.

Samantha testing out the goods.

One red and one blue. The red one is for inside the house and the blue one is for outside.

I once rocked three-inch heels and a red Mustang convertible but now I own two rollators. But again, I digress.

My car has been sold. Daily walks with the dogs, and working in my gardens are things of the past. My days are filled with sitting on my recliner and meditating, trying to read (my short-term memory sucks), and staring out the windows at the birds, trees, and life as it, along with my river, flows by.

This is why, when the women who live at the end of my avenue, brought me a gift basket my heart filled with joy.

Thank you Donna, Irene, Meaghan, and Diana.

Not only did the basket contain a porcelain tea cup, tea, dog biscuits, and kitty treats, it also had a package of ginger snaps (not shown in the photo because…well, cookies, dah!)

I know my life has taken a different path than the one I expected but having neighbors who offer true kindness is wonderful.

I am truly blessed.

Blessed be :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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I would like to fly
I would like to soar with the chimney swifts
Dart and swoop 
Through the gloaming sky

I would like to ride a thermal with a hawk
We would call to one another through the coils under our wings
He and me
Floating above the world

I would like to soar to the highest branch
The one that touches the sun
I would preen my wings
Then spread the shining feathers and let go

I would like to play the feather game with the swallows
I would be the fastest of the group
Catching the prize as it spirals to the river below
None would fly as fast as me

I would like to join the kingfisher on his morning quest
Silver bodies under the water's surface
Our prey
Succulent flesh to fill our crops

I would like to sing with the robins
Call with the bluejays
Laugh with the flickers
And dance with the sparrows

I would like to fly
And know the splendor of the wind against my face
I would like to fly
Higher, higher, higher
Chimney Swift Courtesy of

Blessed be :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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Mother Nature’s Cruel Joke

Let’s begin with a story about a tragic love–Tchaikovsky’s ballet Swan Lake.

It is believed Tchaikovsky’s enchanting ballet is based upon a German folktale entitled The Lake of Swans. Although I can’t find the actual fable, I did find a Wikipedia page tying the ballet to the story. It matters little what source Tchaikovsky used for his ballet; only that the story is beautiful, the music sublime, and the ending haunting.

Here’s the story as told in Tchaikovsky’s ballet: (Taken from the Detroit Opera’s website)

Prince Siegfried, who on a hunting trip, encounters a flock of swans, He falls in love with the Swan Queen, Odette, and swears his allegiance and undying love to her. As a result of a curse by the evil sorcerer Baron von Rothbart, Odette can only take human form between midnight and daybreak. Only faithful, true love can break the spell. This love is expressed in the White Swan pas de deux, danced to one of the most familiar sections of the music, and is both gentle and tender. (Although my favorite is the last dance — more on that later.)

During this pas de deux, Odette’s timidness and sense of fear of the Prince transitions to acceptance of his love and hope for the future.

Swan Lake by the American Ballet Theater Decca Music Group Ltd. Public Domain Compositions

To prevent his spell from being broken, von Rothbart transforms his own daughter, Odile, to look exactly like Odette. Dressed in black, she is presented to Price Siegfried at his birthday party, and he thinks she is actually his beloved Odette. (Seriously, Odette is a white swan!!)

Swan Lake doesn’t end well. Thinking she is his Odette, Prince Siegfried swears his love for Odile, (Men can be such fools.) both destroying his future with the Swan Queen and dooming her to death. In most productions, the prince, distraught, commits suicide by jumping into the lake.

In the end Odette and Siegfried fly to that great lake in the sky.

Here’s my favorite part of the ballet.

Swan Lake by the American Ballet Theater Decca Music Group Ltd. Public Domain Compositions

Yes, yes, I know. I can hear the chorus: ‘River Lady, what does Swan Lake have to do with your life on the Concord River?’

Patience, my dear. I’m getting there.

Mute swan pair, 2021.

There was a pair of Mute swans that visited my corner of the world each spring. They would glide along the water as gracefully as any prima ballerina.

Many people don’t realize that swans mate for life. If one of the swans dies, the other will remain without a mate for his or her remaining years. Very rarely a female who has lost a mate will find a male in a flock of swans but without a flock, she has no chance. And a male without a mate is destined to spend his days swimming and longing.

Trumpet swan - birds - swans
Remaining Mute swan, 2023.

In 2022 someone shot and killed one of the pair of swans that grace the waters of the Concord River. That person is a bastardo.

I wonder what drives the cruelty in humans but that’s a topic for another posting.

This post is about tragic love for it is tragic when an animal must spend its remaining days longing for a mate that will never return.

A form of love? Perhaps.

But most certainly a cruel joke on Mother Nature’s part. Shame on her.

Blessed be :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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April 17 is National Haiku Day

Rain kisses my mouth
Sweet nectar quenches my thirst
I yield and blossom
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Pandora and Her Box of Tricks

I think when Pandora opened that fateful box of tricks she was, in fact, releasing the month of April.

Picture attribution: (Three scenes depicting Pandora and her cursed container, illustrated by Walter Crane (1845-1915), all [Public Domain] via Creative Common).

Yeah, yeah, I know, you think I’ve lost my mind but give me the opportunity to explain myself and you’ll understand.

Now, I’m not a fan of the month of April. Never have been and for good reason. Even if it does bring showers for May flowers, the fourth month of the calendar year brings a multitude of turmoil unlike any other month. Seriously, what other month brings such varied weather patterns? Rain storms powerful enough to drown any hardy rat; chilling winds that cut a person to the bone; hot temps in the 80’s and 90’s (today it is 87 degrees); grey skies; frosty landscapes; snow storms…get the picture?

And the insects. WTF! Blackflies already??? (Some species of black flies have four to seven generations per year. Black fly adults are active throughout most of the spring , summer and fall and even fly during warm spells in winter.

Double WTF!!!

Of course April brings some good things like the singing of American toads on a warm evening.

   / martycalabrese  


Okay, one peeper.

There are brightly colored tulips and yellow daffodils; vibrant green, swelling leaves; but also slick, slippery, brown mud.

Most historians believe that Pandora opened a jar, not a box. Box, jar, tomato, tow-mah-tow, who knows. Since Pandora is one of mythology does it really matter? As the story goes, when all the nasties left the box or jar or whatever, hope remained behind, clinging to the inside surface of the container.

I guess that’s what April really is–30 days of hope. However, I would have preferred if trust was the remaining item in Pandora’s box of tricks because hope gives the impression of longing while faith is more peaceful.

For example, I have faith that the American goldfinches will molt into their brilliant yellow feathers.

Male American goldfinch, molting into his breeding colors.

And I have faith the Great Blue herons will return from their winter playground.

heron - bird - nature - wildlife
Great Blue Heron

As will the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

They’re here!!!

In 1732 poet Alexander Pope wrote An Essay on Man from which the phrase ‘Hope springs eternal’ comes. He was referring to man’s ability to believe that good will overcome adversity, whether that adversity is an infestation of ants in my living room wall or a chocolate Lab puppy who loves to play in the mud.

Ahhh, hope. I guess it does spring eternal in the month of April.

Okay, I’ll be peaceful with the month and let it unfold as Mother Nature intended.

Blessed be :]

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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It’s All In My Head

I’m sure you know this joke: Three neurologists walk into a bar………

No, never heard it. Too bad, it’s a good one.

The punchline is ‘It’s all in your head.’

I’m laughing so hard I’m peeing myself.

Wait, that’s not why I’m peeing myself.


“It’s all in your head,” he said, waving a dismissive hand in the air. A hand with long fingers–the fingers of a surgeon; someone who manipulates the delicate threads of neurons.

I’d heard this song before. Over the past seven years it’s been sung to me a multitude of times by varied doctors who are confident my symptoms are ‘in my head.’

Sorry to disappoint but this post won’t be happy and fuzzy, about wild animals or flooding waters, although I do have a cute video for the end.

No, this post is about a journey of 1000 unsteady steps, but, hey, it’s my blog. When you have a blog you can post about anything you want.


Enter symptoms: stuttering, dizziness, falling, pins and needles in my fingertips and toes, headaches, incontinence (oh boy, what fun), cognitive fog, shuffling gait, memory blurriness, and a general feeling of who gives a rat’s ass.

In my first MRI from 2015, the radiologist wrote as part of the report:

The lateral ventricles are enlarged out of proportion to the cortical sulci. Of note, the possibility of normal pressure hydrocephalus or aqueductal stenosis should only be considered in the appropriate clinical setting.

At the time I wasn’t told the information and being the poor patient that I was, I took on faith my PCP”s diagnosis that my headaches, inability to collect my thoughts, and my stuttering were the result of anxiety.

Fast forward to 2018. Me in front of my classroom teaching about the human body when I drop the marker. Reaching down to retrieve it I fell forward. A collective gasp from the students and, long story shortened to keep you from dozing off, I ended up in the ER of Melrose Wakefield Hospital.

ER doctor ran tests — CAT scan, blood work, and an MRI. He told me I had had a minor stroke but that I also have an enlarged ventricle and that he was admitting me for observation.

The MRI radiologist wrote:

The ventricles are enlarged.

Enter Dr. Benson who stood at the foot of my hospital bed and told me the MRI was fine. My CAT scan was fine. My blood work was fine. My symptoms were in my head, not literally, though. I should seek psychiatric help for anxiety. He prescribed anti-anxiety medication and sent me on my way.

My students had driven my car to the hospital. Dr. Benson discharged me and allowed me to drive myself home (while under the influence of a potent drug–man the world was spinning). I do remember driving to McDonald’s for something to eat and hitting the drive-thru barrier, crumpling the front bumper of my car. I don’t remember what I ordered.

Later in 2018 and another neurologist and another MRI:

Findings: The ventricles are enlarged as on preceding exam from 2015. Given the normal size of sulci and cisterns this raises the possibility of communicating hydrocephalus or normal pressure~hydrocephalus.

I was told I needed a psychiatrist, the my MRI was clean. ‘It’s all in your head,’ Dr. Blank said.

So, I went to see a psychiatrist and received a neuropsych evaluation. The results, my symptoms are organic, not ‘in my head.’

Enter Dr. Ho at Tufts Medical Center who finally performed a Lumbar Puncture. That was Friday, August 24, 2018. Come Saturday morning I was back to normal. No stuttering, no tremors, no gait disturbance, no incontinence, no neuropathy. I called my sister and we laughed and cried with joy.

Come Sunday the symptoms slowly returned. That time when I cried it was due to frustration.

Enter a neurosurgeon who looked at my symptoms, the MRI’s ,and the Lumbar Puncture results, and told me he wasn’t convinced I had NPH but if I did have it he wouldn’t install a shunt.

‘Come back when you’re in a wheelchair,’ he told me.


My symptoms have returned with a vengeance. The stuttering, incontinence, gait issues, falling, pins and needles in my fingertips and toes, cognitive fog, headaches–the whole basket of squirmy, wormy symptoms supposedly ‘in my head.’

New MRI:

There are few scattered subcortical and periventricular white matter
T2 FLAIR hyperintensity seen within the cerebral hemispheres, which
are nonspecific and may be seen the setting of chronic small vessel

There is unchanged supratentorial ventriculomegaly dating back to
2015, out of proportion to the degree of sulcal prominence which may
related to the patient’s reported history of normal pressure

Enter Dr. Matthew Gold. ‘You’re a nervous woman and need therapy.’


New neurosurgeon. ‘You need therapy.’

Well, I guess I need therapy. I’ve put in a call to Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s department of Neuropsychiatry to hopefully schedule an appointment. In the meantime I’ll keep wearing my diapers, using my walker, sitting on my couch when I would rather be out walking and playing with my dogs and gardening, and take my anti-anxiety medication (which, by the way, does not alleviate the symptoms.) and munch on Tylenol for my headaches.

Yup, it’s all in my head.

Blessed be :{

Oh, here’s the cute video I promised you. Thanks for reading my story and, no, I did not proofread it. I have a headache.

Red-bellied Woodpecker and Southern Flying Squirrel

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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Spring always surprises me. I walk between the patches of snow still clinging to the ground and marvel at the life peeking through the earth.

‘Is it time?’, they whisper.

‘Not yet,’ comes my reply. ‘Wait two or three more weeks for the Earth to turn her eager face to the sun a bit more.’

But do they listen to me? Nope. Thinking they know best, they push up into the still frigid air. Ha, they’ll get a wake-up call when Old Man Winter breathes on them one more time before he heads on his way.

Tulips in early Spring.

Okay, I’ll admit it–plants and animals know more than me. They know when it’s time to sprout…

Pussy willows sprouting along the Concord River.

… and when it’s time to form a mating bond.

Northern cardinal - songbirds - red - male - female - courtship - mating
Male Northern cardinal feeding his mate.

I woke a few mornings ago to the liquid trill of a White-throated sparrow. His song sounded like spring itself, announcing her arrival.

Male White-throated sparrow.

Although, I continue to believe the best sound to announce spring are the peeps of spring peppers. As Margaret Wise Brown wrote in her children’s book Pussy Willow: “When the peepers peep, then it is Spring”

Spring peeper. Photo courtesy of

A flock of robins came through my yard a little over a month ago. A day of cheerful chatter as they cleaned out every last berry on my viburnum bush and winterberry branches.

American robin.

Dozens of red breasts flashed in the sunlight and then, poof, they were gone, off to some other location where the berries were plentiful. Soon they’ll return, hungry for the fat worms stirring within the ground.

American robin yanking on a worm.

Spring in New England is not as lush as some southern locations. I’m sure spring sees gardeners in Georgia sitting amongst their hydrangeas as the hummingbirds zip by. (Damn, I would love for my hydrangeas to be this lush. Perhaps I should move to Georgia.)

Photo courtesy of Southern Living.

No matter. Spring in my little corner of the Concord River offers its own brand of beauty. The blush of the rising sun is mine to command.

The Mute swans dance just for me.

Mute swans.

The eagle carries me on his wings and we soar over the river.

American bald eagle.

Yes, spring in my world is full of beauty. And at night, in the silver cast of the moon, I fall asleep to an owl’s lullaby.

View from my bedroom window.

And…surprise! Here they come.

Blessed be :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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A Song for March

I hear my name on the wild wind
It calls for me to come and play
Snow and ice melt away before my feet
I wrap the hope of warmer days around my shoulders

I seek out the life emerging in my midst
Pink to announce the return of the peonies
Red for the coming blush of a rose
They beckon in their colorful displays

But March is a fickle month
More so than the god for which it is named
This month refuses to set its mind to what it will bring each day
Cold nights and snowy landscapes are still to be had

When I run with the pups we do not tarry in the shade
For the fingers of March leave a chill against my cheeks 
I stand in the sun with my arms raised and I listen to the wind's melody
And reach for spring as I sing a song for March.

I often wonder why the browns of March are so distinct from the browns of January. Just like the acrylic paints I buy, expensive pigments create rich, deep tones. This must be what is happening in March–Mother Nature is using a higher quality paint to color her world. Or perhaps its the new life swelling under the soil and at the tips of the tree branches. Or the golden afternoon sunlight as it reflects off the river and a Wood duck’s crest.

wood duck - male - drake
Wood duck drake.

No matter the reason, I go on record that the colors of March are more intense, more mesmerizing, more hopeful than the colors of January.

March is the time of year when I eagerly await the postman, or postwoman. My mailbox is often stuffed with seed and flower catalogues. I imagine my excitement at receiving the newest Bluestone Perennials catalogue is akin to someone from the 1920’s getting her Sears catalogue.

Regardless of whether I plan on buying a new plant, I absorb every detail in the catalogue. Each description brings to mind the coming warm summer days that I’ll lazily spend sipping lemonade while basking in the glory of my gardens.

Or hot summer days where I’ll toil away in the punishing humidity trying to keep my plants from dying due to the drought.

It’s all good; March is a time for dreaming.

My glorious gardens, 2022.

Bailey has grown like the weeds that threaten to take over my gardens. She is now eight months old and I call her my little chocolate muffin. Oh how I wish I could nibble her nose.

Bailey, 8 weeks.
Bailey, 8 months.

She loves to annoy the cats, prancing after them, her tail almost wagging her rear end off. She’ll make a sportive dash at Sam who dashes away but Oreo always stands with a ready paw. After a while the three of them are best friends. As for Harlee, he sits and watches. At ten years of age, he has no desire to chase anything that isn’t edible.

Oreo, doing what he does best–napping.

One of the downsides of March is the mud the dogs track into the house. I try to be firm at holding them in the doorway to have their paws wiped but they are so happy to have spent time bounding through the yard, I hate to spoil their fun. Plus they smell of fresh air and the warming sunshine. So, I let them run across the room to the water dish and I follow behind with a wet rag for the floor.

Bailey and her sister, Grace, playing in the yard.

Two Bald eagles have been terrorizing my ducks. It’s nesting time for eagles and the eaglets have hatched and need to be fed. What better for a young eagle to eat than a fat Mallard?

Listen closely and you’ll hear the Mallard hen quacking for help.

March is a wonderful month to host a party. With the coming of the Spring Equinox and the lengthening of the days (but, oh how I despise DST), it’s great to have one’s home filled with the warmth of friends and family, the scents of a crackling fire in the hearth, and a roast in the oven.

I loved planning gatherings but, sadly, my life has changed in that it’s just me, the dogs and cats, and the ducks. And my son, thank Goddess. I am open to invitations, though (hint, hint).

May March carry joy to you and yours.

Female House Sparrow.

Blessed be :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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What do I do now?

I’ve been living in my little corner of the Concord River for ten years.

Back in March, 2013, I bought my house and began my journey as River Lady. A lot has happened since I signed the closing documents and accepted the keys.

The keys to my kingdom, circa 2003.

But what of the ten years before my journey on the Concord River began?

Twenty years ago I ran the Disney World 10th Anniversary Marathon. It was a very, very, very cool experience.

26.2 miles later in 2003 with my pal, Goofy.

I ran as part of the American Stroke Association’s program to raise money for stroke research. Since my father had died from a stroke, the program was near to my heart. I’ll never forget the feeling of satisfaction when I crossed the finish line. I’ll also never forget the pain!

In the ten years that followed I ran a second marathon, moved five times, got married then divorced then remarried then divorced (all to the same man — yeah, I know), went through bankruptcy, foreclosure, fell and ruptured a cervical disc, adopted two dogs, and made a s#@tload of stupid mistakes, remarrying the same man not included.

Living through those ten years was like being strapped to a roller coaster designed by Hades.

Yup, that decade was one for the books.

The past decade has brought with it a few more surprises, some good, some not so good. More stupid mistakes and some smart decisions, although I’m pleased to write I’m no longer strapped into Hades’ death-defying spirals. The ride I’m on now has gentle swoops and turns, thanks to my medication. Ahhhhh.

So, let me ask, what do I do now?

Seriously, I need to know.

I figure I might have ten good years left in me, give or take a year or two, and I have no clue what to do with myself.

Buying a new house isn’t an option, partly because I can’t afford to buy anything and partly because I don’t want to leave my corner of paradise. However, I must say that as more people move into my area with their speed boats and chain saws, my little corner is getting crowded. But I’m here for the time being.

So, again I ask: What do I do now?

Have I mentioned that over the past five months I have fallen more than three dozen times?


Some of the falls were due to my left leg deciding it no longer wanted to work. Sometimes my left foot wouldn’t make it over the riser of a step and sometimes my left leg would give out as I was walking.

Gravity and I are not friends.

Other falls happened because the Earth shifted. I’m not kidding; it’s like living on a boat. One second I’m standing and then boom, I’m kissing the floor.

A few falls occurred because of snow and ice. Gotta love old man winter.

Remember Rocky? The Italian Stallion? If you don’t, I must ask: Have you been living under a rock?

Pic from the movie Rocky Balboa

Anyway, Rocky said in the Movie Rocky Balboa: “It’s not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

Soooooo, every time I fall I pick myself up and shuffle forward.

But I’m still asking “What do I do now?”

Blessed be :}

Mi manchi, mia amata immortale.

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The Starfish Story: one step towards changing the world


You may have heard this one, but I find that it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it every once in a while.  First let me tell you the story, and then we can talk about it. 

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. 

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man…

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