Posted tagged ‘relationships’

Midsummer Tale

August 20, 2018

In the middle of this harsh, Tucson summer filled with plenty of heat and anticipation of the monsoon rains, plus my exhaustion with our country’s political reality show, something very joyful happened that directed my attention to a very different reality.

Returning home from a three week vacation, I discovered that I had a new neighbor!  A charming, energetic female established her home very near my studio where I work. Actually, she moved so close that it was a bit shocking for me, as I never imagined such a possibility. Her place is so near that I can see it (and her, as well) from the window above my desk and when opening the studio’s door. Such a neighbor could be very annoying if it were a human, but it is… a hummingbird!

In the Nest

Yes, they are present around our property, and we are aware of them. A couple of feeders and local desert plants, which are part of our landscape, keep them happy. They seem to like the long dense row of oleanders next to the small white building that is my Word Studio.

It was immediately very clear that my tiny neighbor is a SHE, because I know that HEs (male hummingbirds) do not participate in building nests, or sitting on those two (they lay only two) precious eggs, or feeding the offspring. She has to do it all! As a woman and a mother, I immediately felt solidarity with her!  I have felt such solidarity with cats, cows, horses, and other mammals, but not with a bird.

What possessed her to build that nest on the wires of lights decorating our outdoor covered ‘sitting room’? I do not know! Perhaps she is an intellectual bird that likes books? Actually (joking apart), it is a very safe place – sheltered from rain and winds by a huge tree on the north side and the walls of the enclosed part of the patio on the south side. There also is a fringe benefit – closeness to a hummingbird feeder that might be very handy for a busy, expecting mother hummingbird.

Lenika's Nest

The next question was, will she accept my frequent coming to my studio or will she abandon the nest? Being concerned and knowing that hummingbirds love red and other bright colors, I initially wore my red summer dress. Each time I approached the door of my studio while she was in her nest, my heart was beating a bit faster from excitement, but of course, it could never match her amazingly powerful heart that beats more than 1000 times per minute when in flight. She did not fly away from her nest, and I felt great relief!

A day or so later, she accepted my presence around the studio, even when I was wearing a variety of colors. Wow, it felt great!  Soon a couple of frequent visitors were accepted by her, as well. One of them suggested that we should name her; after all she (the hummingbird) is a part of this establishment now. ”Tina or Tania, perhaps?” They were almost okay – short, energetic names…. “Oh, no, nothing with a T”, I protested!  “Grace maybe, since she is so graceful?” That one did not fly either — there was something “too much” about that name. “How about Ana, Ania, Anna?” The fact that there are Anna’s hummingbirds, and I am still not sure what kind of hummingbird she is, we decided that such a name might be too confusing. Finally we settled for Lenika, created from parts of our two middle names. And that’s who she is – Lenika.

Lenika closer

One day Lenika got inside my studio by accident and immediately flew straight into one of the windows. Of course, she was not able to get out. Surprisingly, Lenika let me take her into my hands without any resistance or fight. She sat there calmly and let me enjoy feeling her silky small body as I walked outside to let her go free. Soon enough she was back in her nest.

Lenika trapped 2

Three weeks or so past, and I noticed that Lenika became restless and less trusting. She flew away when I entered my studio, or even when I approached it from the far side of our large patio. I have to confess that upset and hurt me, as if she were a real person and not a very small bird. I concluded that it might be the time for her to become a mother, and I started tip toeing around her, like around a woman at the very end of her pregnancy. Other times she behaved like before and at night was back in her nest – very calm, deep in her sleep. That made me calmer, too. Still, some worrying thoughts entered my mind; maybe there is some delay in hatching? Perhaps they are already hatched, and I can’t see them because new born hummingbirds are the size of a raisin and would not be visible yet. And what if the eggs got broken for some reason?

Nest on Patio 2

I truly hope that Lenika’s story will have a happy ending — for her sake and mine. She will have her babies, and I will be free from worries! In the meantime, I am amazed how powerful this tiny, wild creature influenced my behavior and feelings!  Such is the case when one cares about another person or another living thing. It can by joyful, and it can be painful, but it makes us more connected to each other and to this planet.


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Text and photos Copyright © 2018 by Alicja Mann,



A Friendship Tale of Love and Work

October 5, 2010

On the shelf above the desk in my Tucson studio stands a little pale blue framed square picture of Pooh and Piglet walking side by side. The writing on the frame reads:

“We’ll be Friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?” asked Piglet. “Even longer,” Pooh answered.

I received this little picture from my friend Nancy Benoit quite a few years ago while I still lived in Massachusetts.

‘Forever’ means in perpetuity, an eternity. In a relationship of two persons it is a promise to stay in that relationship as long as one lives. When one person dies, the relationship in the real world ends for that person. The forever and “even longer” has to be carried by the one who is still alive.

On Sunday, September 26, just two days after my return from Cape Cod to Tucson, a phone call from Ray, Nancy’s husband, had the sound of tolling bells. And indeed Nancy Louise Benoit died at her Auburn (Massachusetts) home that morning. Knowing about Nancy’s tragic health issues and her struggles with them for quite a long time, I was not surprised by such sad news. I should have been ready for it, but I was not! I guess one never is….

Nancy Louise Benoit

Nancy and I met on Cape Cod as two young mothers – one baby each – about a year after my arrival in this country. We met when I responded to her ad in a local paper. She was giving away a bicycle and I needed one. That day I became the owner of a terrific, fat-tired, one-speed bike. Later I learned that the bike was of importance to her and that is why she did not want to sell it, but “to give it to the right person.”

We “clicked” that day as some people do when they feel some form of kinship.  We lived nearby, were ecstatic about our babies while at the same time a bit overwhelmed by having them. Since neither of us worked professionally at that time, we could arrange our “tea times” relatively easily. On such days we would have a good talk, exchange recipes, and share our notes about children while they played together in the back yard. The seed of our friendship germinated and became a little seedling that year.

Very dynamic times arrived for both families. The Benoits moved out of the Cape to Auburn (about 90 miles away). I went back to work in science.  Later both of us became mothers again. We were busy with building our homes. Still, we kept in touch, but saw each other rarely. So the seedling of our friendship was growing very slowly. The difficult time of my divorce and single motherhood enlivened its growth greatly. Nancy stood strongly behind me and we visited each other more often again.  The seedling became a larger and stronger plant.

Most relationships have some stormy times and so did ours. Actually, we almost killed that plant of friendship, but the plant was smart and went dormant for a long eight years. When it was awakened again, I was an established writer on the Cape and getting ready to enter the world of books. Nancy was writing for and editing a local paper in her corner of Massachusetts. When I decided to publish the book Son of Mashpee, I needed an editor and an excellent one. So I proposed that assignment to Nancy. She accepted and from that time our friendship plant grew like crazy – in height, in width, and in depth. It grew through our hard work together and through long, intimate, middle-of-the-night conversations.  We found great allies in telephones and computers. The distance between Falmouth and Auburn suddenly shrank. We met often – for working in person, for the celebrations of our finished projects, and just for fun. Those were the best and the happiest times of our friendship!

Ray and Nancy Benoit Nancy and Ray Benoit at the door of Alicja’s studio guarded well by Mr. Einstein

My moving to Tucson did not change the dynamics of our work relationship or the personal one. We learned to deal with the huge distance between Massachusetts and Arizona. I was also spending my summers on the Cape and we could see each other once in a while.  But the clouds of Nancy’s unkind fate were coming our way. Still, we threw ourselves into a project of putting together my book of essays. It took longer than we expected with major interruptions by my emergency travels to Poland. As a result we ran that final stage of the project depleted of energy – I by my mother’s death and Nancy by her own health issues. In spite of it all, and thanks to our stubbornness (both of us being Taurus), we finished that race on time and with kudos for the book. Looking at the World Twice would never have seen daylight without Nancy’s perseverance and dedication.

You can see why my most vivid memories of Nancy will be always connected to our work on editing and polishing the words endlessly. And there is some humor in that as well. The process of book editing was long and complex. It went as follows. The file for Nancy’s editing was labeled by me as READY.  Then after her work on it I would receive it back as FINAL, but it was not. A discussion of various details was ahead for us. After that the file would be labeled as ALMOST DONE and I knew that more discussions, especially about placing commas, would follow. Then, after receiving the file marked as DONE, you might think that it would be ready for publishing. Wrong! There was always something more Nancy found in need of correction. Only a file marked by her as DONE DONE could face the world! I truly loved that attention to detail in her work. Now, after Nancy’s departure, I have to carry the flag of DONE DONE excellence – all by myself.

Nancy Benoit and Alicja Mann in Word Studio Nancy and Alicja at work

“We’ll be Friends forever, won’t we?

“Yes, even longer.”

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Copyright © 2010 by Alicja Mann

Trapped in a Vacation Place

August 23, 2010

Before I left Tucson for our summer trip to Cape Cod, I pledged to some of my friends that this time I would take a real vacation. And Cape Cod is a perfect place for that — isn’t it? A true vacation land with plenty of the opportunities for having fun: going to the beach, art festivals, or outdoor music performances; visiting art galleries, bicycling, or dining at the restaurants with an ocean view. President Obama seems to think so too! He and his family are vacationing over here lately — not on the Cape, but on the very near island Martha’s Vineyard that offers much more privacy than the Cape. The Vineyard is well known as the celebrities’ vacation spot and it is accessible by boat or by air only. This island is so close to the Cape that some people can even swim to it. Not me! I, as most people who do not own a boat or an airplane, can get there by ferry. However I will not attempt to go there this week — let the Obamas have their vacation.

For me coming to the Cape is not really a vacation adventure, but more like a homecoming.

Cape Cod is the place where I made a home for myself in this country. Falmouth, Woods Hole, North Falmouth, Mashpee, and Hyannis are especially dear to me. I rooted here after my emigration from Poland. Here both of my sons were born (in this blog, I will call them Taurus and Leo — according to their Zodiac signs), and this is the place where they grew up. Here I became a naturalized American, and here also I faced my big challenges of becoming a writer — first for the Cape Cod Times and later for the Cape Cod Life. Consequently, the Cape became a true home for me. My bonds with this area, I dare to say, are even stronger than the bonds with my native Poland.

Our house here has its own long and complicated story plus plenty of peculiarities. It is a very unique house — there is no house like that around. “Oh, really?” one might ask. Yes, really. It was designed and built mostly by the hands of two people, who were deeply in love. The house was a part of their great dream. But the lovers abandoned that dream of togetherness and went their separate ways. Their love died, but the house remained and stood strong.

With time passing, the house has grown and changed just as our life has changed. For me, especially during the hardship of single motherhood, that house became a good, protective friend. It became my Tara!

More years passed and another big change faced the house — Taurus, Leo and I flew far away from it, and each flew in a different direction.

I followed my “call of the Southwest” and settled in Tucson, Arizona. Since then, the house has changed its meaning for me, but not its importance. Today it is like a book, or rather like a living diary. Looking at almost anything in this house feels like opening a page of that diary. It is absorbing, and it is time consuming.

Driving by familiar places is similar. Oh, here is the Falmouth Hospital where Taurus and Leo were born, and here is the North Falmouth Elementary School where they made their first steps in formal education. Oh, and here is the Silver Beach where they built their sand castles, and here is the Megansett Beach to which in later years they bicycled with their friends — free and happy! And there are so many “oh, here!” places like the Falmouth High School where they became young adults. That goes on and on… I become wrapped in nostalgia and start to feel ancient.

“Hey,” I say to myself in an attempt to shake off this mood, “you are supposed to have fun — go to the beach!” I try to remind myself about that pledge of having a vacation here. But is it really possible? I look around and can almost hear that ‘person-house’ talking to me: “You should trim the bushes,” and “How about fixing that door?” And the house continues, “Alicja, the deck was not stained for almost two years!” and “When are you going to get rid of the poison ivy?” So I became anxious and even angry.

Why is this house so demanding? Actually, it always was, but this summer is even more demanding, because it needs extra care and attention. It does not want to give up its status of being HOME and to become a secondary house. It does not want to be rented for another winter season and serve some strangers. It fears those changes. It fears being sold. In a true reality I know that those fears are really mine.

What I am discovering this summer is that it is not so easy to become a vacationer in the place that I invested myself so strongly and have so many memories. I guess I have to practice vacationing! So today I am going to the beach.

Before I go however, I would like to thank those of you who subscribed to my blog, and those who wrote your supportive comments. Thanks to you, the Internet is not as dark and as impersonal a place for me as it was before. After all, is it not indifference that writers fear most? I do. So I am happy to have you there!

Many thanks again, and here are three photos for you from my North Falmouth.

Main door of our house

Main door of our house

Megansett Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

At the Megansett Beach

Sunset at the Megansett Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Sunset at the Megansett Beach

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Copyright © 2010 by Alicja Mann

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