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Western Massachusetts

Sunday at the Internet Laundromat

It’s 9 a.m. on a Sunday, and so far, we’re the only ones at the Wash ’n Wire Laundromat in Shelburne Falls. That’s a really good thing because we scored the two jumbo-thon washers, which means we can wash all the clothes we dirtied this week in two machines.

I haven’t washed clothes in a Laundromat in decades, except perhaps on a camping trip. The place we’re renting does have a washer in the cellar, but I ain’t going down there to use it. We’re on the first floor of a very old house with a very old, musty basement. No, thanks. Besides, there isn’t a dryer, and given the moisture in this river valley in Western Massachusetts, they would never dry properly on a line outside. Besides this is only a temporary situation until we find a permanent home.

Funny, what you get used to doing. Hank and I seemed to wash clothes all the time when we had our own homes, certainly before we moved here three weeks ago fromIMG_4022 Taos. Now, we wear our jeans a bit longer. A sniff will tell if that shirt could be used a second time. I do draw the line at underwear, however, with an absolute one and done.

So the Wash ’n Wire Laundromat it is. While the clothes are in the washers, I use the free wireless to peruse the news online and catch up with friends. Hank takes in whatever reading material that’s been left behind. There’s a TV here, but we don’t turn it on.

Of course, there are signs about rules. I like the ones on the wall featuring Laundromat humor. Here’s one: “LAUNDRY ROOM — Drop your pants here.” Someone framed baby socks, presumably left behind.IMG_4021

Yes, there’s a clean bathroom and when it’s open, a pizza place next door.

About 15 minutes after our arrival, an older gentleman shows up with a basket of clothes to dry. We exchange friendly greetings.

Once the clothes are in the dryers, we walk across the bridge to a coffee shop. We wouldn’t want to hog the jumbo-thon washers while we’re drinking hot beverages. The Wash ’n Wire Laundromat has two long rows of dryers on one wall, and besides there’s hardly anyone else here on a Sunday morning.

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bridge of flowers
hilltowns, Western Massachusetts

Here I Am

Yes, I have maintained a mostly silent presence on the Web lately. Then again, a lot has happened since we left Taos, New Mexico, for Charlemont, Western Massachusetts, a few weeks ago. But to get to the heart of it: I am fine and learning my way around.

First: the 2,400-mile trek. As I predicted, Hank drove it in three days, staying in Kansas one night and Ohio, the next. He could have stretched it, but he saw the finish line and just kept pushing.

Besides, we had the cat. Two (we named her that because she reminded us of our two best cats) was one unhappy passenger in her carrier. That lasted until Walsenburg, Colorado, where from thence forward she was on my lap. She perked up nicely in the hotel room — finding a cat-friendly hotel was another challenge — and was attached to me when she wasn’t.

Where did we land? We are renting the bottom floor of an old house on a busy road in a tiny town. The Deerfield River is past the large field below the house and beyond the river are train tracks. Our neighbors upstairs are very likeable, as are our landlords. We are within walking distance to a couple of restaurants, a jam-packed general store, and the post office. It’s a short drive to a swimming hole and a bit longer to Shelburne Falls, where our son, Zack, is opening his brewery.

We somehow managed to fit the contents of a small house into this apartment. Hank and I realized we have much more art and furniture, most of which he built, than when we arrived in Taos 11 years ago. A couple of framed pieces are stowed under the bed. Boxes are stacked in the corner of a bedroom. But the wooden furniture, boxes, and frames Hank built make any place look great.

By the way, my new place to write is the dining room table. I had to relinquish my Shaker-style desk to use for storage in the kitchen. It works.

What about the family? We saw three of our kids at one gathering last weekend. We visited Nate’s new home soon after its closing Tuesday. Later that day, we attended a hearing in Buckland for a pouring permit for our Zack’s brewery — one of the selectmen told us he had skied at TSV — and have stopped by when he’s working there. Hank will be helping both sons on their projects.

What about the other people living here? Gosh, they’ve been so friendly. Hank calls it Pleasantville. I have yet to meet a grouch, but as one woman advised us, “Wait until winter.”

Other amenities? Sweet corn sold everywhere, including along the roadsides. Blueberries. Really fast internet. Moisture. Trees. Greenery. Food co-ops.

One glitch: In order to have that really fast internet, we had to get a landline. Good thing since we don’t have cell-phone service at home yet.

We’ve been driving around looking for a permanent place. Friday, when we visited our former town of Worthington, we stood outside the general store and saw seven people we knew well. We toured one house in Buckland and did drive-bys of others that looked a whole lot better online than in person.

We remind ourselves we’ve only been here a short time — two weeks as I write this. We will eventually find the place that is ours. But, for now, here I am.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: I took this from the Bridge of Flowers. Zack’s Floodwater Brewing will open in the building across the river with the porch.

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my gardens
Taos

What I Will Miss About Taos

Recently, I saw a young man riding his bike as he held aloft a snakeskin several feet long. What a find, and yes, such a serendipitous sight is one of the things I will miss about Taos.

For those not following too closely, Hank and I officially leave New Mexico for New England on July 27. We’ve made Ranchos de Taos our home for 11 years. Next it will be Charlemont in Western Mass. (pop. 1,200), where we will be closer to much of our family.

What else will I miss? Certainly, our energy-efficient home complemented by Hank’s craftsmanship in wood, plus the grand vistas of mountains and sage beyond it.

I will miss the sweetness of people. For instance, Hank and I have been regulars at the recycling center to score boxes. This week, one of the workers asked us if we needed boxes and told us that the guy from the Family Dollar should be dropping off a load momentarily.

What else? In no particular order, here goes:hollyhocks

My vegetable and flower gardens.

Soaking at Ojo Caliente.

Sunny days and dark nights.

The big, big sky.

Shorter winters, yes.

Taos characters.

Eating Christmas at Orlando’s and the friendly staff at Elevation Coffee.

Ah, Pieces Consignment, where I bought well over half of my wardrobe, no kidding.

Feast days at Taos Pueblo.

Listening to the Spanish language.

So much creative energy.

Of course, those people I call friends.

That admiring look when I tell strangers I’m from New Mexico.

I bet there is a lot more, but that’s a pretty good list.

Alas, none of these are close to our family, most of whom live in Massachusetts. Fortunately, two of our children are in Florida and California — great getaways when winter wearies arrive.

What won’t I miss about Taos? Ha, there is definitely a list, but I will keep it to myself.

ABOUT THE IMAGE ABOVE: My vegetable garden.

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Taos, Western Massachusetts

My Life in Boxes

 

While Hank was away finding a place for us to land in Western Massachusetts, I was packing, packing, and packing. I am taking care of the house, Hank his shop. I believe I have the better end of the deal. (For those who missed the last post, we are leaving Taos for Charlemont, pop. 1,200.)

My process was to start in one room, my office, then move onto the hall closet, then onto the next room. After a solid week of it, most of the house is now in boxes. All that is left are the glassed art on the walls and the large wooden boxes Hank built, plus the clothes, kitchen stuff, etc., I set aside to live on until we head out of here. It surprises me how little we need, but then again this is a temporary situation.

For me, it all comes down to finding the right boxes. My best source so far has been the recycling center. People bring the boxes they no longer want, usually flattened, and dump them into large receptacles. The trick is to come when the guys working there haven’t emptied them. It’s all in the timing because they do it all day long.

Sometimes I find great stuff like someone just moved here and no longer need the boxes. Other times I strike out and have to come back. I’m not complaining. They’re free.

When I was a college kid, I worked in a pants distribution warehouse filling orders. Once when one of the guys in shipping went on vacation, the boss asked me to fill in. That’s when I learned the proper technique to tape a proper box. It’s a skill that’s come in handy for many, many moves.

The week Hank was gone, I taped the bottoms of the boxes while I watched TV at night. The next morning, they were ready to fill.

Course, I’m nuts about bubble wrap, tape, and crumpled paper. Then, there are stickers and markers so I recall what’s in each.

Yeah, I started early, but I had the time, and besides I wanted to get this part done before I headed Back East for a week to help out with the new grandbaby, who was born June 29.

When I look at the boxes stacked in my office and in the hall closet, I think we have a lot of stuff. I did glean my possessions last summer — I don’t touch Hank’s — and I’m still doing it. But frankly, I like what’s in those boxes and feel they are worth hauling 2,404 miles away.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Flowers in my garden.

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Taos, Western Massachusetts

Hello, I Must Be Going

Groucho Marx said it best. Actually, he sang it in the movie, Animal Crackers. But, yes, it’s official. Hank and I are leaving Taos next month and moving to Charlemont in Western Massachusetts.

Taos has been very good to Hank and me. Like so many people, we arrived 11 years ago with the urge to live here. No jobs. We knew exactly five people. But we had a sense of adventure, and after selling our home in Western Mass. in less than two weeks, we figured we were on the right track.

Things fell nicely into place here in New Mexico. We found a piece of land — interesting story there — and a great contractor, Beau. I started doing freelance at The Taos News, and then became the copy editor, and then its managing editor for eight years. I like to joke I clawed my way to the top — not really, of course.

Until last May I was in the thick of Taos, news-wise. I had a hard-working editorial team that was fearless and fun when it was warranted. We won a slew of state and national awards. For me, covering the news was more a mission than a job.

Hank and I enjoyed living in a place where creativity oozes from the ground. He created amazing furniture, boxes, and frames from wood. The woodwork in and around our home is his.

I wrote fiction on my own time — adult and kid novels. I even published two adult novels and a bilingual kids book (with my friend Teresa Dovalpage).

So why in the heck are we leaving? The answer is we want to be closer to the people who mean the most to us — our family. I believe people who live here with their families will understand. Four of our six kids live in Massachusetts, plus a grandchild and one on the way. My mother and other family members are there. Phone calls, visits, and Facebook are just not enough.

Then, there is the sense of adventure. And given that our home here was under contract in a week, I’d say things once again are falling nicely into place.

So right now, my life is consumed by finding boxes, packing, and seeing to details. We expect to hit the road with our stuff sometime in late July although no firm date has been set as of yet. We are going through the selling process, inspections and the like — so far, so very good. Thanks, Lisa.

Hank went Back East to find us a place to land. Finding a rental was tough. People are opting for Air B&B and I understand why. But we have a nice, affordable place to live before we find something permanent. Charlemont is a sweet town, population around 1,200, near the Deerfield River.

There will be parts of Taos that I will miss: the people, views, and short, sunnier winters. That’s just for starters. Taos is indeed a special place, but, hey, I must be going.

Here’s the link to how Groucho Marx sings it in the movie Animal Crackers

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Penstemon flowers blooming in my garden.

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