Woke up with it raining outside, a lot later in the morning than I suspected. And I was back in the country home of my dear family friend who has welcomed me up here to his place here since I was eleven or so years old. The rain is falling steadily on the window, on the roof. I vaguely remember ripping my contacts out before I went to bed last night. I need a drink of water. I can’t seem to find any place to plug things in around here. Seeing, however is prioritized. Had I brought any spare lenses up here with me? I used to always keep pairs in my backpack, but it’s been months since I last used it and there are no spares to be found. Rather fortunately I had earlier thought to keep a pair in the glove compartment for use in a potential optical emergency, driving with a lost a lens. And before much of anything else is attempted, I head out to the car and retrieve the two lenses I’d assumed would be there.
The house is in a pine barren. These pines were always here. Now they are so much taller than I remember. I estimate they must be one-hundred-and-twenty-feet tall these days. Perhaps they’re taller. My old friend has a number of fascinating new trees on the property as well. There is a handsome gingko tree, to remind us of Tokyo or Beijing, a flush Western Hemlock in the middle of the pines. A Fortune’s Spindle Vine is ablaze with wet, green, on the neck of one white pine, but it cannot surmount the tall tree, the top third of which is beyond the reach of the vine, for now.
Back in from the rain I can see now, and I see that there is no coffee. I sip some mango juice instead and consider whether or not I’m on-line. There doesn’t seem to be any password but the connection is glacial. To my left, drooping over the faux waterfall cum, Shinto pagoda is a remarkable tree, with tight, twisting branches and strong wrinkled leaves, dripping wet, illuminated. Leaving the half-loaded page on the Grecian-blue table cloth I return to the rain and stand beside the tree, trying to force my app to recognize this fellow. But I’m unsuccessful and head back in to get a towel. Later I learn that it is a Harry Lauder tree, named after a Scottish actor, whom I'd not been familiar with but I’ve learned was high-tone in his day. He walked with a crooked cane, not unlike the branches of this tree.
Later it isn’t raining. We drive down the Mass Pike towards Exit 17A, Holyoke and then cut up 91 towards Mount Holyoke College. The campus is isolated, gorgeous and reminds me of its sister campus back at Vassar; the faux Norman architecture, the idyllic lake, nestled beside the facilities. This is the seventh or eighth campus we’ve visited this way, during Covid, with no human interaction, just a drive through the grounds after a preliminary look on-line. My daughter is quietly taking it all in. Questions are answered monosyllabically. Later we drive down to the picturesque campus of Smith College which can’t help but also evoke Vassar and Mount Holyoke. I hadn’t realized just how close Northampton was to the Smith campus. After a few turns through the grounds we exited on to Main Street which looked invitingly busy on a cloudy Saturday afternoon.