I can’t believe it, I said to Gil. I cannot believe I’m 55 years old and don’t know the proper time to plant a sunflower seed.
Well, he said, it’s no big deal. I’m 59 years old and I don’t know either.
It got me to thinking, how many new things, simple things, nothing earthshaking, come into my life every day, even at my advanced age.
It’s a question of noticing.
Today I prowled around the boonies upstate, in Dutchess County, with my brother Peter – these photos include his — seeing some small things I hadn’t seen before.
We spent most of our time in Tivoli, a tiny village near the Hudson River that dates back to 1872 but avoids all dustiness, with its free-thinking, artistic, intellectual inhabitants. Nearby Bard College sends over a constant scruffy stream of students, not to mention professors.
Pete introduced me to a monument in the cemetery of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Tivoli, where the stones seem dominated by the Hudson Valley families DePeyster and Livingston.
An exquisite stone carving to represent the soul of a remarkable woman, Estelle Elizabeth de Peyster Toler, who was born in 1844 in Red Hook and died 45 years later in Manhattan. Descended from the cream of New York society — De Lanceys, Van Cortlandts and Coldens — she was known for her piety and philanthropy. Her husband died the day after her death of a broken heart. Estelle’s marker reads, from the Proverbs, “A perfect example in life of the ideal virtuous woman.”
But I found the inscription on the base of the praying girl more moving.
With its sweet embellishments of lichen and moss: SISTER–BABY.
Another grave, more modest, this one in a field of grass off a country highway.
Was this Molly also a virtuous woman? A virtuous pet? It’s an odd place for a burial but oddly peaceful.
I’ve had plenty of fancy cappuccinos, like this one at Tivoli’s Murray’s café, designed by stylish barrista Michelle.
Pretty good, she said under her breath, checking her work, deadpan. Not the best I’ve done.
But I’ve never before had borscht made with garbanzos rather than beef to complement its beet chunks. Topped with a spoonful of organic sour cream, it was scrumptious.
And before today I never had a perfectly-designed, shot-silk carryall for knitting needles such as I brought home from the yarn shop on the tiny stretch of Broadway that is the heart of Tivoli. Fabulous Yarn offers luscious skeins (“fibers for fanatics”).
And whimsical taste. Under one cheery roof.
Down the street, a tavern called the Black Swan, currently under repair.
Attitude will remain unchanged.
Before today, I had never laid eyes on the brick-and-stone construct of architectural genius that is the historic Stone Jug House in Clermont, housing families since 1752. Local stone, I knew. Weathered brick, sure. Together, gorgeous.
I looked around today for something I’d seen a hundred times, but always loved: a painted turtle. But the large one Peter knew of refused to show his face at the pond, the weather being cloudy. Still, there was something to see, an exploded cattail.
Like cotton wool laced with cornmeal. It was something I’d never touched before.
Sometimes if you simply turn something around, it’s totally new.