The Mystical Raven

As a birdwatcher, have you ever seen a raven? Not as frequently sighted along Buzzards Bay, the raven is at least twice as big as the similar-looking common crow or fish crow, with a different sounding guttural croak, often seen high overhead while nesting in elevated trees or roosting on narrow ledges of rocky cliffs.

Considered a passerine or perching species, ravens have the largest-size brain for their body size of all birds and are known around the world for intelligence high enough to overlap with humans, second only to the porpoise.

The raven mystique dates back to Nordic mythology where two by the name of Hugin and Munin each represented the power of thought and reason. In England, ravens are still kept as guardians of the Tower of London because of the medieval superstition that their presence there assured that this iconic landmark would never fall.

Even in the new world, Native American folklore believed them to be spiritually sacred. Ravens continued to border upon a paranormal relationship with humans more recently in the poem by Edgar Allen Poe in a creative portrayal of a remarkable talking bird, knocking on his door with lyrics of a rhyming mystical ‘Lenore’ that lives on in American literature as a real life person.

Poe’s choice of a raven to play the part of a lovelorn character role may be because they normally mate for life after performing an aerial courtship dance ceremony, with male and female locking talons in flight to spiral down towards Earth and not letting go until the last second.

Being cleverer than most birds, they have a way of getting what they want through cooperation and communication with each other, and, like humans, using tools to pry and extract food from crevasses.

Like crows, the raven is known to mob other predators and steal some of the morsels of a carcass. It is especially known, like seagulls, for dropping clams on rocks to open them up or picking up stones to fly overhead to warn unwanted visitors of its nesting site or fledglings (as illustrated) and dropping them in an accurate trajectory while uttering an unfriendly sounding ‘glug’ to show their intrusion displeasure.

As we begin a new year with each passing day of more daylight hours, birdwatching becomes more rewarding and significant. My greeting of the season for you as a reader is to “look skyward, angel” to find creative and artistic inspiration as we share the wonder of it all.

By George B. Emmons

Rita M. Lapointe

Rita M. Lapointe passed away on Dec. 29th. 2016.

Although not a year-round Mattapoisett resident, Rita considered Mattapoisett her home since 1991, spending the summer months with her family and friends on Brant Beach.

She attended St. Anthony’s Church weekly with the help of rides from generous neighbors.

Rita loved music, Bridge, Dominoes, trips on Buzzards Bay, dining with friends and good red wine, not necessarily in that order. She danced well into her 100th year.

Her family wishes to thank all those who kept an eye out for her over the years as she ventured out on her many adventures and invited her into their homes.

Marion Town House

To the Editor:

The Marion Selectmen have recently decided to evaluate the use of Community Preservation Funds for a separate study group to now explore building a new Town House on the VFW site.

We are frustrated and puzzled by this plan. The Selectmen have previously instructed the Town House Building Committee that Community Preservation Funds may only be used for our additional exploration of renovation designs and not for new design.

This decision directly contradicts their prior reasoning. Such a plan undermines the integrity of the Town House Building Committee and the professional consultant team who continue to conduct a fair and unbiased study of the issue.

The final site selection cannot be based solely on construction costs. Liz Brainard has recently outlined the many important aspects of keeping the Town House functions at their current location: vitality of the village center; convenience and proximity to other commercial and community activities; and ease of pedestrian access. In addition, preservation of one of the town’s most historically and architecturally significant structures adds much intrinsic value to the town’s historic character and charm. This cannot be measured in dollar value alone, especially when new construction is unlikely to reduce costs significantly.

The Town House Building Committee continues to review and compare options for both renovation on Spring Street and new construction at the VFW site. Considerable funding has been allocated to this effort over the past five years. Scaled-back programming and reduced size are now being considered, per the Selectmen’s direction. We request the continued support of the Selectmen and the community to complete our charge, not to dismantle our progress with yet another committee and the improper use of Community Preservation Funds for a study on new development.

Sincerely yours,

Wayne Mattson, Bob Raymond, and Meg Steinberg

 

The views expressed in the “Letters to the Editor” column are not necessarily those of The Wanderer, its staff or advertisers. The Wanderer will gladly accept any and all correspondence relating to timely and pertinent issues in the great Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester area, provided they include the author’s name, address and phone number for verification. We cannot publish anonymous, unsigned or unconfirmed submissions. The Wanderer reserves the right to edit, condense and otherwise alter submissions for purposes of clarity and/or spacing considerations. The Wanderer may choose to not run letters that thank businesses, and The Wanderer has the right to edit letters to omit business names. The Wanderer also reserves the right to deny publication of any submitted correspondence.

Friends of the Mattapoisett CoA

Everyone is invited to the Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Mattapoisett Council on Aging. Note: the corrected date is Saturday, January 21 at 10:00 am in the Conference Room at the Mattapoisett Free Public Library. Our guest speaker is Jennifer McIntire, President of the Mattapoisett Historical Society, who will talk about the Museum & Carriage House.

This January, the Friends of the CoA (originally formed as the Friends of the Elderly) will be celebrating their 27th Anniversary. We are so grateful that our ‘founding fathers’ were diligent and intent on building an organization that has stood firmly with the Mattapoisett Council on Aging to support our Seniors in ways far exceeding their expectations.

We sent out our 2017 membership applications with the January 2017 issue of the FMCoA Seasonings. We trust you will complete and return yours. We also hope you will support the Friends with an hour or two of your time and expertise to help us carry out programs, ideas and functions in the coming year.

You may download a copy from www.mattapoisett.net > Council on Aging > 2017 Friends of the Mattapoisett COA Membership Application. The direct download path is http://www.mattapoisett.net/sites/mattapoisettma/files/uploads/2017_friends_application.pdf. Drop off your completed application at the Senior Center at Center School, 11 Barstow Street. Include your check made out to the Friends of the Mattapoisett Council on Aging or mail it to: Friends of the Mattapoisett Council on Aging, Inc., P.O. Box 1116, Mattapoisett, MA 02739.

Committee Responds to Town House Critics

Perplexed by a proposal to form yet another committee to study town house project options, the original Marion Town House Building Committee on December 29 expressed their preference to first meet with critics of the current town house project trajectory before a formal meeting with selectmen on January 26.

On December 21, Planning Board Chairman Robert Lane and Finance Committee Chairman Alan Minard approached the Board of Selectmen, asking to form a committee to exclusively study the viability of building a new town hall at the VFW building recently acquired by the town at 465 Mill Road.

Town House Building Committee members, who have been working together for roughly two years progressing towards a town house renovation and expansion that is feasible yet palatable to taxpayers, were taken aback somewhat, surprised that neither Minard nor Lane had ever approached the committee with their idea, nor had they ever attended a committee meeting over the past months.

Committee members shared their reaction to the selectmen’s indulging Lane’s and Minard’s committee request in a recent letter to the editor written just after the December 17 meeting.

“We are frustrated and puzzled by this plan,” wrote Meg Steinberg, Wayne Mattson, and Bob Raymond, members of the THBC. “This decision directly contradicts [the selectmen’s] prior reasoning. Such a plan undermines the integrity of the Town House Building Committee and the professional consultant team who continue to conduct a fair and unbiased study of the issue.”

During a discussion amongst themselves, committee members went further to say that they were uncertain whether Lane, who the committee acknowledged made his career building office buildings, clearly understood how a municipal building project could differ from a regular office building project when it came to specifications.

“[Lane and Minard] didn’t have a clear proposal on how they were going to get it done,” said Raymond, after he commented that selectmen basically “kicked the can down the road” by allowing Minard and Lane to start a new building study committee. “I’m not sure they know what’s involved in this project.”

The notion had committee members asking, why form another committee to duplicate the work one already has done for many months?

The timing of the acquisition of the VFW was a factor, supposed committee member Lynne Crocker.

“It landed in our laps just as we were tying everything up,” said Crocker. “It threw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.” Crocker then suggested, “Maybe we should just lay low and leave it to the selectmen now.”

The committee agreed that it would be more amiable if Lane and Minard would attend the town house building committee’s next meeting on January 12 at the Marion Town House, before the January 26 meeting when both parties will address the selectmen.

By Jean Perry

 

Marion Republican Town Committee

The Marion Republican Town Committee will conduct its next monthly meeting on Monday, January 9 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Music Hall, 164 Front Street, Marion. Please join us. The public and new members are welcome.

Rochester Bristol Aggie Student Wins FFA Award

Winning the FFA Veterinary Science Career Development Event Championship is no small feat. In fact, Bristol County Agricultural High School senior Molly Ross of Rochester said even she wasn’t expecting her team to beat out all other 40 participating states.

The journey began back in January of 2016 when Ross and three other animal science majors at Bristol Aggie competed at the state level and won after a series of opportunities to show off and be tested on their knowledge and skills in veterinary science. This brought the team to the state finals in September where, again, the team took first place.

“We’ve always done well at the state level, but not great,” said Ross. “We weren’t expecting this at all.” The Bristol Aggie team, however, has won at the state level over the five years it’s been participating in the competition.

In Indianapolis back in October, the four were subjected to a series of exams and tests to exhibit their skills learned at Bristol Aggie. Ross, who is a large animal science major, said first up was an exam on the general knowledge of veterinary science, followed by a mathematics test, which probed the teams’ abilities to convert metric values and other areas of math that assist in skills such as dispensing proper medication amounts.

“You also had to prove that you could identify equipment, identify animal breeds, and parasites,” said Ross.

Over the course of two days, the students’ skills in haltering livestock, filling syringes, and performing procedures were observed, followed by a 15-minute group presentation on how to treat Salmonella in dairy cows.

“For that, we received a perfect score,” Ross said.

There are a lot of aspects involved in the competition, said Ross. Intense studying for months prior to the national competition was all part of the big picture.

“The best way to describe it is ‘intense studying,’” said Ross. “After a certain point, we studied so much that it wasn’t going to stay in our heads for long, but at least we’d seen it.”

On October 21, the team was presented with plaques for their achievement during a banquet after the event. In December, the four were guests at the State House and were honored with certificates on the floor of the House of Representatives.

“It’s a big deal,” said Ross of the team’s accomplishment. “Even Texas came in second place to us. There were kids from Idaho that were just in shock.”

Ross says she plans on attending UMass Amherst next year, majoring in animal science. She said it’s a hope of hers that she will one day make a name for herself in the field.

“This experience has shown me what I can do,” said Ross. “Bristol Aggie is a really great place for me. There’s a lot of hands-on learning, I’ve learned a lot, and it’s opened a lot of doors for me. I can’t imagine having been anywhere else.”

By Jean Perry

Police Apprehend Suspect of Recent Thefts

Police appear to have discovered the suspect of a rash of car break-ins spanning the Southcoast from Dartmouth to Marion after a suspect was apprehended following a December 31 home invasion and vehicle theft from the same address.

The home invasion follows a slew of unlocked car break-ins on Converse Road in Marion, as well as several in Mattapoisett the day after Christmas in the areas of Point Connett, Tupola Lane, and Atkinson Way.

The suspect allegedly entered the home during the night while the residents were asleep, stole the keys to a Toyota Avalon parked outside and absconded with the vehicle, which was later spotted in New Bedford.

After surveillance of the suspect, the police apprehended the suspect at a home in New Bedford where police, with a search warrant, found a number of the reportedly stolen items inside the location.

Rochester also experienced a number of home thefts between December 21 and 28, although police have not disclosed whether these break-ins were related to the most recent Marion incidents.

A Rochester Police Department press release dated December 28 states: Rochester Police are investigating two housebreaks in the past seven days. The first break occurred on Wednesday, December 21 in the100 block of Mattapoisett Road. Entry was gained through an unlocked door. Electronics and jewelry were taken.

The second break occurred Wednesday, December 28 in the 300 block of North Avenue. Entry was gained by forcing a door open. Electronics were taken.

Police are asking residents to keep an eye out and report any suspicious activity immediately by calling 911.

The name of the suspect has not yet been released and the incidents are under investigation.

By Jean Perry

 

I’ll Be Home For Christmas (2012)

A writer needs a healthy combination of inspiration and imagination. For this writer, it is first and foremost inspiration because my imagination has never been one of flourish, color, texture and taste. Nor would I trust my imagination to weave such fantastic tales as those which real life can and will provide.

But I can tell you what I see, experience, feel – all through the filters in my mind. This holiday season has found me once again pondering the importance of personal relationships and processing – endlessly processing – experiences, memories, and themes of the past.

Christmas is that perfect mixture of pain and joy. Possibly, as we age, the scales swing more towards the pain side than joy; for surely even happy memories of Christmases past make us remember those who are no longer with us.

Unhappy memories are gifts we’ll never be able to return. We are left holding the scales, trying to keep them balanced for the sake of the people around us. Nothing is ever truly fair, but we try, don’t we?

And so when I visited the now infamous nursing home to spend some quality time with my mother, the contrasts were what I saw – the young visiting the old and infirm, the capable assisting the incapable, those still with cognition and those whose cognition has long since ceased to provide a clear point of reference. And I saw my mother, whose small life had become smaller still.

She had been to the hairdresser in preparation for her day out of the old age jail. She was invited, wanted, at her great-granddaughter’s home for Christmas Day. There she would be queen of the day.

I’m glad for her and for myself. For her, it will be a few precious hours released from the living hell of a nursing home. For me, it means I won’t have to endure going there to see her. We are both free for the day.

On this Christmas Eve afternoon as I find her freshly coifed and dressed in new clothes ready to enjoy as best she can, along with the entertainment that would be available in the dining room, her mood is decidedly pleasant. I push away visions of other Christmases where she’d spend hours crying or hollering or withdrawn into a depression none could penetrate. Today, she is smiling and full of good cheer.

We go into the room where the entertainer is setting up his electric keyboard, microphone, and amplifiers, and talking to the cute CNAs whose job it is to position the residents’ wheelchairs in such a way that all can see and hear. I place my mother’s chair smack dab in front of the entertainer’s equipment where I’m sure she’ll be able to hear the music. A mere 10 feet from the amp should do it, I figured.

Ma has been deaf and going deaf since she was in her sixties. Over the years, she’s had various hearing aids, all of which she would eventually declare pieces of junk. These recent years, in spite of collective best efforts to get her equipment she’d use, all have failed. We’ve given up. We set our voices on stun volume in order to speak with her. It does make having any kind of pleasant conversation nearly impossible as one strains one’s voice in a tone she may hear and then have to repeat oneself at least twice.

“THE WEATHER IS CHILLY TODAY!”

“What?”

“THE WEATHER IS CHILLY TODAY!

“What, the leather is mildewed?”

“NO, THE WEATHER IS CHILLY!”

“Oh well, what do you expect, it is winter.” And thus we labor along, me smiling at her wondering if her daughter is going soft.

The entertainer excitedly looks out at his audience – the frail, now physically impaired, some incontinent, others paralyzed, blind, deaf, even speechless beings that are known as residents in this facility. He smiles broadly, animating his every movement and facial expression in an effort to give them the best show he can. I see a middle-aged man with some limited talent whose work has gotten him this far, but whose core is one of kindness and tender mercy. He wants them to enjoy themselves; regardless of their condition, he’ll give them a show.

I note he has the ability to play some pretty good jazz chords. I’m enjoying watching him and studying his technical abilities as I understand them to be after spending all my adult life providing musical training for my son. This guy is good. He tries his best to get the folks to sing along and, after a bit, many are joining in as best they can.

One resident is tapping the fingers on his working hand, another knows all the words to the songs and sings along with tears streaming down her face. I turn to my mother and she motions for me to come closer so she can speak to me.

For some time now, my mother’s ability to speak has been rendered nearly gone due to a series of mini-strokes and congestive heart failure, which affects her breathing. I place my right ear as close to her mouth as possible with my chin resting her on chest. The end of her cold nose is now in my ear but I don’t move even though I know her nose is runny. She says, “What is this damn fool trying to sing?”

Oh, classic Mother lives, I think to myself. That mother who could find fault with Andy Williams, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, sometimes even Elvis (perish the thought) – ta da! Here she is. I smile as I pull my face away from her and am pleased that my ear is not wet.

I don’t really respond to her verbal assault on this poor working schlep, opting instead to shrug and nod while tapping my foot in rhythm to the electronic pre-programmed beat.

White Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Silent Night, Joy to the World, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and all the seasonal favorites roll out and over the assembled.

One CNA is dancing in between wheelchairs, stopping here and there to get a resident more involved in the world around them while shaking a tambourine. She wears a headband of reindeer antlers with blinking lights and a loud red sweater. I think she is adorable. My mother is ready to share another thought with me.

“Doesn’t she know she looks like a damn fool?” Oh, the urge to tip her out of her wheelchair is tempered by my deep desire not to sink to her level. I smile.

Then the entertainer makes a song choice mistake. I hear the sad and all too familiar first notes of I’ll Be Home For Christmas. I think to myself, this guy can’t possibly understand how cruel it is to play this song.

Obviously, many in the room won’t have a clue what he is playing, including my deaf mother, but many others will and will be reminded that they are never going home again – you can’t go home again never, not fully, not ever – even me.

Tears threaten, so I rather abruptly get up and say to my mother’s ear, “Time to go!” As I search to find a way to escape the song through the labyrinth of wall-to wall-wheelchairs, I hear him say, “Oh, let’s leave that and pick it up a notch,” launching into a lively rendition of Jingle Bells. But I’m gone in spite of this wiser musical choice.

One and a half hours is about all I can stand on a good day outside in the sun on the grounds of this place, never mind a gray Christmas Eve afternoon in close confinement with the poor folks stuck in hell. I install my mother at the reception area where she wants to stay instead of going back to her room.

“If I’d known it was that damn fool, I wouldn’t have bothered getting out of bed today.”

I make goodbye noises, kiss her, and promise to see her soon while making a speedy exit out the door. How clean and fresh the air always seems to me after time spent in that altered universe, that time warp of pain, that ‘end of the world.’ I find deep breathing beneficial and, oh so necessary, as I walk to the car.

On the drive home, I see their faces: the faces of all those people who once had lives, a rich fabric of family, friends, events and abilities – all now in tatters. They are the remaining shreds of humans; they are the result of a medical institution that can keep them alive, even if not living. I see the faces of people who were once young and who could never have imagined an ending such as this. Like my mother, they are in this holding station between living and dying.

Recently, my mother cried that she couldn’t bear the fact that all her grandchildren were moving away from her. What she really meant was that life was pulling away from her, pushing her further and further towards the abyss of nothingness. She felt sorry for herself and would not be consoled that this was the natural progression of things (To everything turn, turn, turn, etc.).

I don’t blame her, though. If I had as much awareness as she does and woke up each day to find it wasn’t a nightmare but my real existence, the nursing home, I’d cry too. She can never go home again. She won’t be home for Christmas, not even in her dreams.

By Marilou Newell

 

Welcome in the New Year at Open Table

Come celebrate the New Year at Open Table! You’re invited for supper on Friday, January 13 at the Mattapoisett Congregational Church! The menu is usually a surprise but it’s bound to be something delicious. There is no charge, although donations are gratefully accepted. At Open Table, it’s all about the food, fun and fellowship. Doors open at 4:30 pm and the meal will be served at 5:00 pm. This is a community event and everyone is welcome.