October view from Herring Hill

December, 2021

Dear Family and Friends,

One of the benefits of writing this annual letter and creating the card is the opportunity to look backward and count my blessings. Last year at this time I wrote about the various pivots and adjustments our household has made due to COVID; and here we still are! Fully vaccinated, with some lessons learned, and some new insights, and a mighty dose of gratitude.

If you don't want to read all the boring details about what I have been up to, skip to the bottom. There you will find a brief round-up of the rest of the family.

Here's what I've been up to:
Still doing yoga with Teta Hilsdon on Zoom. We had a couple of weeks of in-person class on Thursday morning between fully vaccinated and Delta, but went back to Zooming when it seemed more prudent.

Speaking of COVID none of us have had it that we know of. Andy and I started our Moderna vaccinations in March, as soon as we were able. Sam followed in May when they opened up to his age group. Both Andy and I have had our boosters, and Sam will have by the time you read this. * Here is what I think about this. It is not surprising that people don't trust the government, but it is more than a little crazy that some folks would rather risk getting - and spreading - a potentially deadly virus rather than listen to experts in medicine, virology, public health, epidemiology, biology, all the other -ologies. So you get your medical care from Fox News or Facebook? You seriously believe some random yoga guru over your doctor?

Not only do I want to be protected from this virus (and all the other ones I am vaccinated against - polio, smallpox, shingles, pneumonia, the flu, tetanus....), I don't want to socialize with people who care so little about the health and safety of their community that they will not get a shot in the arm. "My body my choice" suddenly applies? But the same people who are yelling about personal freedom don't seem to care about anyone else. So I have decided that "My body my choice" can apply to me, too. If that's your philosophy, then I don't want to be anywhere near you. I can control only what I will and won't do, and one thing I won't do, is play music or gather with people who won't get vaccinated if I can help it.

Andy with his new VW EVThe Cars: In September of 2020 I decided to put my money where my mouth is and ordered a Toyota Rav4 Prime Hybrid from the local Toyota dealer. A car became available in January but it was black with red trim. Too macho for me. If I was going to spend that kind of money on a car, I wanted one that I liked to look at, and anyway, what with COVID and being retired, I barely needed a car at all, much less a new car. So I passed and it wasn't until June that a pretty dark-blue one came on the lot. My financial guru, Kathy, shuffled some funds around and I cheerfully traded in my Subaru and drove home with a full tank of gas. It turned out she had sold some Chevron stock I didn't even know I still had. I thought that was hilarious. I charged up the battery and have bought one tank of gas, in August. I still have about 100 miles of gas left on December 11. With colder temperatures the battery doesn't have the range that it had in the summertime, but then neither do I.

At the same time as I ordered my Rav4 Andy put in a deposit on a VW id4 fully electric vehicle. His car finally arrived in early October, over a year after his deposit. We now have two chargers (thanks, Green Mountain Power) - one in his garage, one in mine, and have mitigated our carbon footprint yet again.

You can still skip to the bottom.

Playing Fiddle Tunes
Here are a few things I have learned about music. For me, playing alone is no fun. On Zoom, all tunes are crooked. We messed around with an online music rehearsal app called Jamulus. For several weeks, I met virtually with bandmates over the app and tried to rehearse together. Because we were so starved for ensemble music it was worth the effort (thanks, Jim) and tweaking and twiddling and tinkering and fussing that it took, but it was, in hindsight, no substitute for the real thing. Nevertheless, it served a vital purpose to connect us to one another. The most positive part of it for me was hearing the voices of the others. Somehow, even more than making music together, that was a gift.

As the temperatures warmed more opportunities to play together with others in person became possible, starting with my very first 'gig' in over a year. A local friend and I were scheduled to play tunes at the Athens Brick Meetinghouse Plant Sale on Memorial Day weekend. It was a cold week; the day of the plant sale the temperature never reached the high 40's, and my friend said no way. I was determined to play this event - it happens right in my neighborhood and only once a year - so I did it by myself. Wow, was it cold. By the end I couldn't feel my fingers or my feet.

Throughout the summer and fall, I played tunes on my porch, in backyards, under a tent at the New England Youth Theatre, on the Creamery Covered Bridge, at the Brattleboro Farmer's Market, under the Pizza Pavilion at Orchard Hill Breadworks, at the Buddy Walk on October 2, in the tent at the Red Fox, at West Townshend Pizza Night, at the Westminster West Church BBQ Fundraiser, and at local assisted living homes - Bradley House and Holton Home in Brattleboro, and Valley Cares in Townshend. Protocol at the assisted living homes requires us to be masked, which we gladly do. It is lovely to sit in the same room with another musician and a live audience. Most of the places listed here are non-profits and welcome donations. And the Red Fox is open for business, and welcomes your patronage (vaccination required).

I warned you! You can still skip to the bottom.

The Big Dig
One day in early November our power went off, then on, then off. This should not happen because we have Tesla battery backup units connected to our solar array that provides power if the grid is down. It turned out that the lines between our barn, where the units are, and where the power comes in, had failed. The electrician came to diagnose the problem, and this resulted in a temporary fix to supply power to our house and especially to our pump, which also supplies our neighbors with water. A few things in our house don't run at the moment - the dryer (a new heat-pump unit that uses a lot less power and takes a long time to dry anything), the microwave, and a few other things here and there.

Andy and Sam dug a huge trench in advance of the electrician coming back to replace the lines from the barn to the house, which we hope will happen in early January.
Herring Hill drama!

About the Card
I explained the thinking about the card on the splash page.
If you want to know more about my various rabbit holes, or if you want to know more about any of the honorees, don't hesitate to ask - you can't fit a lot of detail on the back of a baseball card.

One thing about the text on the back of each card. I suppose it is appropriate to memorialize people by emphasizing their 'good points' and down-playing or ignoring altogether their imperfections. I find it frustrating, though, because then we are remembering them as two-dimensional paper dolls, not the glorious and imperfect humans that they were. I have tried not to do that.

This year's card is not as silly as many of my past efforts, but I hope that it is entertaining enough and not too obscure.

A beautiful morning on the Hill

The Rest of the Family
Andy has kept busy with conservation mapping and tromping around in the woods whenever he can. He is launching a non-profit for local conservation. No details yet, it's very new.

Rosa has been living in Stockholm now for almost 2 years. She bought an apartment and is thrilled with it (except for the radiator - it's an old building). Sometime I will go see it.

Sam spends a lot of time looking after Daffy, who is an old dog now. With the help of our wonderful local vet we have been managing her golden years relatively well, still barks at intruders, airplanes and the random chipmunk, still loves her walks. During the summer when I had music on the porch she loved that. She is especially fond of accordion music.

Sam expanded his Mr. Fix-It clientele during the spring and summer and has been pretty busy. He's been playing piano for the folks at Valley Cares, properly masked and distanced of course.

Old Cards
I have deleted all the old cards because of license issues. If you want to see any of them, reach out to me and I will provide.

This is my 22nd year of online holiday silliness. I am grateful beyond measure for my family and my friends, near and far, for the memory of those no longer with us, for the example and inspiration of strong and wise mentors and friends, for the beauty of the place I live and the kindness and generosity I see in my neighbors and my community.
Wishing you health, safety and fortitude for 2022 and beyond.

Love, Laurie