Uncategorized

James Alexander Malloy, C Co., 175th Infantry, 29th Division.

This is the last photo ever taken of Pvt. Malloy; it is May 1944 and he is in Cornwall, England, finishing up his training with the 29th Division for the invasion of Europe. He will go in on Omaha Beach on D-Day + 1, in what is known as “the third wave”. He will fight in the hedgerows of Normandy towards the liberation of the German-occupied town of St. Lo (the hub where all the main roads from the deep-sea ports of Brittany and Normandy converge to form a highway straight to Paris) until June 16. On that day, when his regiment is engaged in fierce combat at a place called Hill 108, (known as Purple Heart Hill, for the capture of which the 175th will be awarded a Presidential Unit Citation), James Malloy will be killed by a German sniper with a shot to the heart. He will be interred along with 9, 387 other American servicemen in the Military Cemetery at Colleville-St. Laurent, the only Scottish soldier buried on that magnificently peaceful green bluff overlooking Omaha Beach.

I had gone to Omaha Beach to pay my respects to James Malloy at the request of his son, a Korea War vet who is in poor health (the son, Joseph Molloy, was 14 years old when his father died; he now lives on Long Island). Neither of us knew, at the time, that James Malloy was the only Scottish soldier buried in the American cemetery; in fact, Joseph knew very little about his father — not even his father’s birth date.

Once I began researching the life of James Malloy, I was able to find out rather a lot about his life and service. I tracked down the New York City orphanage where James was sent when he was five years old, I found the records of his discharge when he was sent back to his paternal grandparents in Scotland after six years at The Home, I found the old Army records that show how he waited for the Americans to enter the war before he joined the 29th Division in England, I tracked down his Army sergeant who remembered “Scottie” vividly, who also told me what he saw the day James Malloy was killed. I interviewed James’ best friend in the Division just two months before he died, a man who had never talked about the war to his own family and at whose funeral I spoke on behalf of the Molloy family to thank him for all he had done after the war to support the emigration of James Malloy’s widow and son to the US.

I wrote a brief summary of all this for the veterans’ association fo the 29th Division and it was published in their magazine last March (I have added a new “James Malloy Page” [above, see tabs] for those who are interested). I am now an associate member of The 29th Division Association and I’ve had the pleasure to meet many more WWII vets.

The 29th Division still has, to this day, strong connections to the people they liberated in Normandy. At every anniversary of D-Day, a contingent of 29ers goes to Omaha (sometimes in the company of US Presidents) and are joined by generations of French citizens who march in the streets of St. Lo, Vire, Vierville, and St. Laurent. One of those grateful French citizens comes all the way from the Breton peninsula to pay his respects, and two years ago he took his young family to Omaha to visit James Malloy’s grave:

James Malloy’s only son, Joseph Molloy, does not have children of his own. I used to worry that the memory of James Malloy, the only Scottish soldier buried on Omaha Beach, would disappear. But now that these French children have heard of him, and now that you, too, know his name, I hope that means that someone will be there for him in 2044, on the 100th anniversary of D-Day. And in 2144, 2244, 2344…

If you have a soldier you would like us to remember on Memorial Day, feel free to add his name in your Comments.

Have a happy weekend, everyone.

Read more

Are We There Yet

Angus, the Airedale in the middle (above), lives on a 70-acre estate [old farmland with woods and a pond] in upstate New York. He has been waging a valiant battle to recover from injuries that he sustained three weeks ago, probably from a hunter’s high powered rifle — it took Angus three days to crawl home, wounded as he was. He has been undergoing treatment from the finest vets in the county and recuperating at home in the care and love of his beloved human companion and his “pack”, Malcom and Lily (above). Back in the vet’s office for follow-up care, while being administered routine anesthesia for more surgery, Angus’s heart, as big and as brave as it was, just gave out; he died yesterday afternoon.

We all who knew Angus and knew his fearless, hardy, adventuresome, and loving spirit, and all of us who had been in awe of his stout-heartedness and serenity during these past few weeks, all of us who were inspired and comforted by his determination to remain the leader and soul of his pack, are devasted.  He was a good dog. He was family.

Read more

pumps

A squirrel loves a pumpkin.

P1010350

Baby pumpkins love a pumpkin.  [All photos were taken Nov. 11, a warmish day that was just right for walking around the neighborhood peeping at pumpkins.]

pumps 002

Afternoon sunlight loves a pumpkin, or two, or four.

P1010353

Pumpkins waiting for the mailman love a pumpkin.

pumps 001

Zombies love a pumpkin. Pumpkin innards remind them of human brains.

P1010354

Peek-a-Boo pumpkins love a pumpkin.

pumps 003

The Hallelujah Chorus  loves a pumpkin. Somebody say Amen.

P1010355

And my neighbor who hasn’t fixed his garage yet from when lightning struck it last Summer loves a pumpkin, probably. Because EVERYBODY loves a pumpkin.

Read more

fall one

November 1:  I’m excited about Fall, and ambitious. I’ll paint the most complicated leaves I can find.

fall too

November 7:   Ooooooo.  The first REDS.  There’s a leaf from the Japanese maple in the front yard in there, which has just turned from dull maroon into brilliant vivid crimson.

fall three

November 17:  Here’s how I learn all about BROWN, and when a single oak leaf turns into a complete Fall landscape.

fall four

November 30:  All the trees are bare, and the leaves are scattered on the ground like bits of old wrapping paper, torn and worn, pushed by cold winds into the farthest corners of the yard. 

November.

Read more

P1010224

My awesome weekend (con’t): Day Two, Saturday, Oct. 31

Here’s the most crucial thing you need to know about Long Island: the North Shore is New England, and the South Shore is New Jersey. Culturally, socially, and mall-wise; when you’re looking for a place to pimp your car, you head for the South Shore. When you’re looking for a landscape in which to take an inspiring all-day nature walk, muse on the transcendental nature of human existance on a fine Fall day, you head for the North Shore.

The North Shore of Long Island is 120 miles long, all of it shoreline on the body of water with the highest number of yachts per capita, the Long Island Sound. Despite its long history of being a millionaires’ playground (from back when a million bucks was serious money) the North Shore is still a bit raw, wild, rural, and reticent. It is the anti-Hamptons.

On Saturday, as fine a Fall day as there ever was, Top Cat and I drove 16 miles east of our little toe-hold on the North Shore to spend the day wandering in the 80-acre sea-side nature preserve called Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge, in a town called Lloyd Neck.  Lloyd Neck was not happy when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie rented a mansion there this past Spring while Angelina was filming a movie on the Island — Lloyd Neck is the kind of place where yammering for attention makes one too gauche to live on Lloyd Neck. Please. Don’t do that: it upsets the locals. Which I know for a fact.

Target Rock Preserve is named after a rock. A rock called “Target Rock”. It’s a big rock, and it sticks out of the Sound, and it was used as a — wait for it — target, during the American Revolution.  But more about that later.

Because our first stop in Lloyd Neck was to visit my favorite house on Long Island, a house that Top Cat and I had seen for sale when we were in Lloyd Neck last Spring, stalking Brangelina.  We’d taken a wrong turn ( get-away manouvre) onto a private road (onto a side-street to lay low)  and ended up at a dead end (sorry: that’s  cul de sac  in this neighborhood) and discovered my dream house. It is a pristine mid-century “modern” ,  California-esque split-level structure perched in a notch on a cliff above the estuary waters of the Long Island Sound with a 180-degree view of the Target Rock Refuge.

When I saw this house last Spring I wanted to live here, and Spring is my least favorite season. I had to see it in my most favorite season just so I’d know what the perfect house for me looks like at the perfect time of year.

It. Looks. Beautiful.

And as  I was  strolling around the property, peeping into windows and gesturing around the view as if I owned it, the new owner waved hello to me from the living room picture window. At least, I think he was waving hello. He was definitely waving, so I waved back. Friendly, like.

And he invited me and Top Cat to come in and look around.

The new owner is a young man from The City (which, around here, means Manhattan) who had just received the keys to the house from the broker and was taking his first look around as The Guy Who Owns The Perfect North Shore House. And he let me take pictures.

Readers, this is what the Perfect North Shore House looks like:

P1010207

View of the Long Island Sound from the second-floor balcony-living room. That corner window is two-stories tall:

P1010214

The other end of the balcony-living room looks like this:

P1010212

Those floor boards, set on the angle: is that too much or what?  And you can see the staircases over there next to the fireplace, six steps going up to a suite of bedrooms with connecting baths, and another set going down, to a master bedroom with a full-size dressing room — all kinds of shelves and drawers built-in so that you hardly need furniture to mess up the composition of the rooms. Sigh.

This balcony-living room is, as you see, “sunken” all around — the kitchen is six steps up:

P1010215

Oh, I could write odes to those 1959 shades of blue, the aqua tones of my youth.

P1010208

(See those cupboards above the low counter?  THAT’S THE REFRIGERATOR!! )  My friends, this is what the future used to look like, circa 1959,  a split-level  built-in space-age composition of wood panelling set off with gem-like shades of astro-blue.

On an Impala, this color was called “Acapulco Blue” (from back when Acapulco was a jet-setter’s playground, not a run-down shopping mall for cruise ships):

1960impala

Those aqua-colored tiles on the backsplash:

princess

This, my friends, the future was an exciting place, circa 1959:

P1010209

This is the steel-chrome -wrapped kitchen “control panel” next to the electric range, which you can’t see because the light coming in from the deck with the 180-degree view of the Long Island Sound is shining way too brightly, as bright as the 1960s.

I miss all that, all that mid-century optimism about the way the future used to be, and I love the way it’s all still there in this Perfect North Shore House.

I want to tell you all that I did not spend the rest of the day in an agony of house-envy. I want to tell you that, but it wouldn’t be true.

So we thanked the new owner of my dream house and hinted that we could definitely be in the neighborhood for a house-warming party and we continued on to Target Rock.

Nature is a good antidote for any house-envy what ails you.

P1010221

So they say. “They” being the people who don’t let you bring in the real medicine.

P1010230

Seriously. I get it: no cocktails in the woods.

And any way, when I go nature walking, I carry my martinis in a thermos, like any other civilized person.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, The Target Rock:

P1010231

Legend has it that British ships anchored here during the Revolutionary War used this rock as a target for  “gunnery practice”, but that doesn’t explain why the bullet holes are on the side facing the shore.

P1010220

We also caught sight of the rare and elusive legendary Forest Cat of the Woods of the North Shore. . .

P1010217

. . .who ignored us from the edge of the parking lot at the entrance to the Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

And that reminded me that I had 14 cats at home that I hadn’t seen for hours and that reminded me that Home Is Where The Cats Is.

So I said to Top Cat, “Home, James”, which is his real name thank goodness, and we headed down the road to our own Perfect North Shore House.

Read more

trees

In India, the Buddha gained enlightenment under a bodhi tree around 2,500 years ago. for a thousand years, pilgrims to the “Buddha Tree” used to pluck a leaf from it until the tree died; if you go to the Mahabodhi Temple of the Buddha in Bodh Gaya you can now pay your respects to the second propagation of that original bodhi tree .  Fun fact: the last souvenir leaf was picked off the original tree in 1235.

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine (460 BCE – 370 BCE), taught under a plane tree in Greece — and that very same tree is still there. But it is surrounded by an iron fence, and is available for hugging once a year — and only to women. Superstition is that the tree will give women strength, long life, and WEIGHT.

In England there’s The Royal Oak, where Charles II hid to escape pursuit from Puritan revolutionaries. And of course there’s all those trees in Sherwood Forest where the Merry Men hid from the Sheriff of Nottingham.

In South Africa there is a 6,000 year old baobob tree with a trunk so large that it takes 40 people holding hands to surround the tree and give it a good hug. Inside the trunk, there is a BAR: it’s the world’s only living barroom.

Lennart Meri (1929 – 2006), the first president of Estonia, said that the thousand-year old trees that cover the countryside of his country are “proof that we [the Estonians] have been living here for 500 centuries. It has an effect on your way of thinking, and feeling. You have the same feelings as being married for 5000 years. ”  Now, that’s sweet.

Thank you for all your lovely stories about letters — it is an honor to read about your treasures and your memories of letters sent and received. Great stories.

Now I’m collecting your stories about tree hugging – there’s a lot about tree personalities that I have to learn, especially trees in the West and Northwest. If you can describe your favorite tree in three words (see above, illustration of al my tree buds) please please leave a comment so I can TAKE NOTES!

Read more

leaf

We had to cut down a tree today. It was old, and parts of it were already falling onto the roof when you least expected it, and the tree doctor said it was rotting from the inside. Still, you hate to lose a tree.

This was the tree whose leaves were the first to drop, the one I used as my Real Sign of Fall. By the way, that came on Sept. 29 this year.

I collected some leaves from the ground (above) — I’ve painted so many of these leaves in past years.

leaf 001

My Travel Tip for Staying Put No. 4 is:  “Go Hug a Tree.”  Now, I never hugged this particular tree, but I have hugged plenty of trees, and if you want to be a close-to-home traveler, if you want to discover a wonder of the world right next door (OK, that might be overselling it) you need to know which trees in your neighborhood are huggable.

I will explain this more tomorrow, but for now I’ll leave you with this thought from Blaise Pascal:

“You find yourself in the world only through an infinity of accidents.”

The older I get, the more I understand how accidental all of life is, how slight were the chances that any of this — you, me, us, tigers, pain-in-the-ass sales clerks at Anthropologie, etc. — came to pass. I often start to feel weightless, nothing more than an atom in the mind of the universe.  I need to feel gravity, my feet firmly on this Earth, attached, rooted.  So I hug a tree, and connect with the center of this planet. Trees:  I think of them as extended family.

Read more