Manda's Musings


Peter and I sleep with the window open and the fan on these summer nights. I love the fan, and so sleep closest to the window. Peter tolerates it. Typical routine is that he turns on the fan a bit before bedtime to clear and cool the air – we sleep – then I wake up first, around 5am, and turn the fan off, so we – especially Peter – can hear the birds’ morning salutations.

One morning, as I sat, and Peter stayed laid down in bed, listening to the lilting, melodious aviaric symphony, our euphoric state was disrupted with “BA-BAAAAWK! B-BAWK, BA-BAAAAAWK!” – our neighbors’ chickens.

I could relate. They were trying so hard – so hard to match the lilting refrains of their more delicate peers. Though try as they may – it was a lost cause. And they did try – over and over. We both couldn’t help but chuckle.

And one of the particularly determined, adamant chickens – perhaps out of heightened frustration with its ill-advised endeavor – took it up a notch. It launched into a phrase of the highest, most warbling chicken chortling I’d ever heard.

I could relate – when at a distinct disadvantage, throw all caution to the wind and astound with your overwhelming audacity.


What is this runner’s high everyone talks about? 

I was at dinner with some friends when conversation turned to running. Someone asked me about my running. When asked, I said I had run eight marathons and hoped to run at least one more when I turn 60 – and she nodded her head knowingly saying, “Ah – that runner’s high.” And I got to thinking…

I don’t believe I’ve ever felt a runner’s high. In fact, I would have to say that many of my runs have started out utterly against my own will. I have to trick myself into running: ‘You can run the course backward – that would be fun!’ – ‘You’ll get to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner when you’re done!’ – ‘You can run the whole thing slow (nowadays that seems to be a given, though); no need to push; just a nice, relaxing run – like a day at the beach…’and so on. Sound good to you?

Most of my runs feel sloggy in the beginning, at best. Sometimes they stay sloggy – though much of the time they move into a smooth, level comfortable (with just a touch of begrudgement) stride that suffices as tolerable exertion. I rarely push myself anymore. Trails offer a wonderful distracting influence to my runs through views, wildlife, and successfully (or not) avoiding bodily injury due to roots and ruts and the like.

Perhaps, if pressed, I could say I have approached the likening of what I imagine to be a runner’s high – not while running – but after. After finishing one Boston Marathon – early on, when I finished one in a decent enough time – and told myself I would never run again!


‘An Unlikely Story’ in Plainville is well worth the drive! It truly has an imaginative magical feeling to it. I presented my picture book ‘Where Are Sam & Grace’, along with a Eurythmics mini musical phrase moment through ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’, a poster assisted mini-Milky Way galaxy preview, and the grand finale – Rocketeers Sam & Grace – featuring my lime green Squire electric guitar with orange crush amp – and mini rocking rocketeers blasting out the countdown – 10 – 9 -8… Cassie and Carol took total charge of the craft afterward – a rocket ship bookmark!

What a blast!

There is nothing like being with a group of engaged audience members with you every step of the way. Of course one must allow for a shy beginning. I did have to suggest – in the first song, after leading them in the nonsense lyric ‘Howja doo doo doo doo doodle’ – that we’d hear more sound if they opened their mouths while they were singing. Big and little people alike. ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ gave them familiar ground to stand on.

Sold (and signed!) several books. Absolutely remarkable illustrations by Sara Zieve Miller – a gal I knew as an elementary schooler – graduated RISDE – working professionally.

For an energetic start to your day – here’s the full band version of Rocketeers Sam & Grace. Berklee’s Jeff Stout played down a smooth trumpet solo in one take, and Billy Novick wailed on his sax. Of course, regarding the kid’s chorus accrued from Hopkinton Cultural Arts –

What a blast!


Don’t worry – if after having a day filled with trying and at times fiery communications with your fifteen year old son, and you wake up at 2:00am and can’t fall asleep, so grab your book and pillow and head downstairs so as not to disturb your spouse, and you find lights on, not only in the bathroom but downstairs, and your son’s room, and your son isn’t in there – or anywhere in the house, which you then go through very carefully, room to room, checking under beds and in closets, nooks and crannies, to be sure he is not sleeping in some alternative teenage logical space – and find his bodily presence truly gone, so you awaken your spouse and you both begin to wander the house, and you begin to think that perhaps his strong reaction to your previous agitated state  had stronger roots than you were aware, and he decided to go missing, and didn’t even take his raincoat, and it was raining, and his cellphone goes to automatic reply when you call it, and you get the flash of calling the police – and your child’s grainy photograph showing up on small milk cartons – but your spouse says ‘not yet’, so instead you get in the car and begin driving down the road looking for a lone dark figure walking, hunched or lying down somewhere, spent or trying to stay out of the rain – don’t worry.

For you might see not one, but two dark figures walking side by side down the sidewalk, in the rain, toward home, roll down your window, be approached and hear – “Hi, Mom. So and so was up so we took a walk” (and so-and-so waves to you and you wave back – as if everything is light and as it should be), and after subdued exchanges of low-key teenage challenge and subtle parental corrections, you roll the window back up, turn around, and head home as their wet walk completes itself – and breathe a measured sigh of relief – cross (as of your unlocking) the unlocked kitchen door threshold, assuring your spouse all is well – and wait for the wee-hour sojourner, who shortly thereafter, arrives over that same threshold, whose previously locked state you inform him of – and, after some teenage logic explanation, and some parental correction, you hear, “I usually leave a note.”


And you find out this wasn’t, in fact the first, but the third time such a sojourn was taken since the beginning of the summer – but all others he left notes, but bothered not to this time, since the others we had not awakened for. Don’t worry. 


Youngest was away on a 9-day canoe trip with Boy Scouts. I feel a tangible freedom spending adult time without mind tendrils tuned to possible teenage antics taking place due to absence. Thank you Scouts! Peter and I drove to Chesterfield Gorge with bikes one morning. Peter ferrets out some wonderful Massachusetts spaces that offer grand adventure. A bike trail, or actually, jeep road, sidles the Westfield River through woods and meadow, 6.6 miles.

It’s wonderful being with a kindred spirit. We finished the 6.6 and Peter said, “Stop here or keep going?” Dirt road stretched out as far as we could see. Of course, as soon as we came to the end of the 6.6 I was thinking, “Must ride this out to pavement.” So we did – and then some. Both knew it time to turn around when we reached the Knightville Dam. First major human-made structure, other than iron pipe gates cordoning off the path, we encountered in our sojourn. Our Massachusetts scenic scapes are magnificently diverse. That river valley’s diverse vegetated curves, watery bends and billowy clouds lives deep in my mind’s eye.

Though we missed the gorge’s swimming hole (well – I did – because Peter let me lead) due to my immense concentration on riding at a fast enough speed to avoid bugs hovering in my face – after finishing our ride we did hike back to a place in the river that had a light current and was deep enough to swim in. A bounteous end to a bounteous sojourn.


Words cannot express the depth and breadth of ache I feel hearing the news of the families and children being detained at our border with our neighbor, Mexico. 

I must believe there is much love that surrounds that situation- moments we don’t hear much about on the news – but I roar at the callousness. 

And hearing and reacting to our present administration’s decisions as I do – I am moved to face my own callousness within. 

Because it is there – because I am human.

But may I act on it less and less. 


I heard Joy Harjo for the first time on NPR Wednesday night, reciting her poem, ‘She Had Some Horses.’ While listening I did not know she was of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. And that she is the new poet laureate of our nation. 

She had me heart with her opening stanza.

When I was a child, my heart lived in horses. (Figuratively – that is. In actuality, I felt intimidated by them – unlike my daughter who was boss, no matter their size or temperament.) I was more intrigued, and in love with, the idea of horses than horses themselves. That heart connection lasted well into college – recalling my obsession with the theater piece, ‘Equus’ – though that could also have been due to the naked male actor.

Hearing Harjo read her poem brought my childhood horse sense back – sent me on an amorphous journey, with horses weaving through my life’s story.

She had some horses – figuratively.


Sam and I, with a couple friends, are going Rhode Island, to the beach today. What privilege.

And to think ‘going to the beach’ used to mean walking across my lawn, down stone stairs, jumping off the seawall to our rock. What privilege.

Today I will plunge my head under waves; take in the glory of coolness surrounding me; flip on my back and float, suspended by salt saturated seas; breath deep the ocean air. What privilege.

What privilege, I understood as a child to simply be ‘home’ – like any other kid’s home. I raced waves before they crashed the seawall; donned diving mask and took my homemade spear to (never) pierce a flounder; spied the eel gliding by our rock; tied my dinghy to the spindle and dropped a hand line.

We sold that home space several years ago – well used and – unaffordable in adulthood.

What privilege. Today we’re going to the beach.


Went to the City Winery Monday night with Peter and Sam. Met up with a few high school friends to hear Sona Jobareth – a wonderful musician from The Gambia. She had four other band members – two drummers/percussionists, a bass and a guitar. 

She plays the kora. (Reminds me of my granddaughter – Cora!) She is the first professional female kora player to come from a Griot family – typically the art is passed from father to son – males only. She has broken the mold.

Kobareth, along with others, including high school friend, Todd Hoffman and his wife, Cherie Hoffman, are working to create ‘The Gambia Academy’ – the first cultural center in The Gambia.

Though her music certainly moved me – it was hearing her heart’s devotion to spiritual and cultural development of her home – her family, community, country and music in The Gambia – that struck me the most. To have a cause to live for and foster in such grace.


I am not a gracious Boston sports fan. I remember watching football and hockey with Mom on our 12-inch black and white TV. She’d yell and complain when fights broke out or egregious, violent penalties were made.

I yell and complain whenever a play doesn’t go my way. Doesn’t make for good company or community viewing. My abiding husband is about the only one who tolerates my presence – and that’s probably due to the vow ‘for better and for worse.’

The good news is – I now recognize my behavior as offensive and detracting. The bad news? I’ve had at it for 30 years plus.

My realist sensed the Bruins’ chances of winning the seventh game of the Stanley Cup playoffs were shot when St. Louis scored the first goal. I tuned in late on the radio ride home due to a commitment. I didn’t hear much of their stunning play in the first period. My rabid Boston sports fan professing ‘everything you do from here on out has to go my way or we’re going to lose’ kicked in, and I badgered and berated them to the end. That damned second goal with 8 seconds to go only added fuel to the tirade.

The next morning I heard interviews on 98.5: choked up, spent voices – dejection – devastation – of twenty year olds – twenty year olds, Manda. Even at 42, Charra could be my son from a teenage pregnancy. I recalled Charra playing with a broken jaw. The heartbreak of a Charlestown native who’s life’s goal was to play for the Bruins and had to sit out multiple games due to a concussion. And then I recalled myself – sitting on the couch fuming with frustration. Sitting on the couch. On the couch.

Knowing these young men make millions, my empathy goes only so far. But playing out their heart aching voices against my couch cussing, hard lined, self-consumed banter – I took a knee.