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The first sure sign of spring in the river valley is mud. Thick brown mud that sucks you in, coating your soles and turning your tire treads slick. There’s also wind. Wind that tugs those hold-out leaves from limbs of oak and defeats autumn preparations for winter by turning heavy tarps into paper airplanes that sail across the yard. Do I sound chagrined? We have toughed-out a relatively mild winter in the Catskills and do not yet possess the sunny disposition of summer.
Each winter I spend in the Northeast makes me yearn for the California valley my brother escaped to some 40 years ago, where bougainvillea blooms in February and palm trees hold their fronds all year—if they aren’t burned in a wildfire, that is.
I know, Florida has its hurricanes and California has its wildfires, so bloom where you’re planted. I try.
This year, I am especially eager for summer. There are just two months before our daughter is to be wed in our yard on the banks of the Delaware River. If we’re lucky, climate change will bless this wedding with dogwood blossoms by Memorial Day.
Our daughter was nine-years old when we bought this house on the river. She was not the kind of girl who dreamed of princes on their knees proffering diamonds. She followed her brother’s lead, miming sword fights across the suspension bridge that links our property to the islands in the Big Eddy. She built snow forts in the winter and biked around the flats in the summer. Twenty years flew by and, when it came time, she knew she wanted to be married right here. Her fiancé did too.
They had met at Yosemite seven years ago on a glacial overlook. A serendipitous meeting of two tall redheads, facilitated by a little dog and the young man’s father. Over the years, they navigated friendship and romance, long-distance and up-close. They were 6,000 miles apart the year she did her master’s in Dublin and now they co-habit a one-bedroom apartment with their 75-pound Goldendoodle in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. They have hiked through 16 national parks, sometimes multiple times, slept under the stars at a music festival in Eaux Claires, Wisconsin and even survived six months under her parent’s roof in Brooklyn together. They could have chosen any of those places to marry, but they chose this place, where mud reigns supreme in May.
For years, our family has enjoyed the services of a weather angel. Our family friend, Tom Hoben, a devout Catholic, used to be the go-to advisor to friends planning an outdoor event. Give Tom the date you chose for the event, even months in advance, and he would give you a thumbs-up or down. After Tom died, I began to notice that our outdoor plans always succeeded in beating the weather odds, and even the Doppler-enabled Al Roker. A snowstorm threatened an outdoor school fundraiser one year but skirted the Northeast. School fairs, graduations, outdoor pageants all went off as planned. And after each one, we thanked Tom.
This year, I blanched a little when told the wedding would be on May 25. The garden would barely be green by then, I thought. And the mud—oh, the mud! Couldn’t this wait until late summer? My complaints went unheeded, and invitations are out. California family have their plane tickets. Hotels are reserved. The caterer has her deposit.
This thing is a locomotive with no brakes. Can I thank you, Tom, in advance?