Sunday, July 29, 2007

Outside the Zoo in Al Ain

This was near the entrance to the Al Ain Zoo.
We ended up near the group in this photo throughout our visit to the zoo. From what I could see they were truly enjoying themselves. There was much laughter, the children ran free, and none of them seemed very affected by the tremendous heat.
The Al Ain Zoo contained an impressive variety of animals in a clean and spacious setting.
Al Ain is a desert oasis town east of the city of Abu Dhabi (and part of the emirate of Abu Dhabi). It is one of the original settlement areas in what is now the United Arab Emirates. The Bedouins who lived in the region used to travel on foot or by camel and set up their tents in Al Ain for the summer months.
The late H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding ruler of the UAE, was from Al Ain.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back in Abu Dhabi

We returned to Abu Dhabi two days ago, excluding M and two of the older boys, who are touring Germany until Saturday.

We're wide awake at night and practically comatose in the morning.

Last night we played musical beds: at 1 a.m., my 8-year-old woke me, he couldn't sleep. Two hours later, when I finally heard his soft, steady breathing beside me in my bed, his 9-year-old brother appeared.

With tears in his eyes, my 9-year-old said that he couldn't sleep. He'd noticed his brother's bed was empty and thought he'd been kidnapped. Once he saw his younger brother was still alive, he didn't want to get into my bed with him, so we stumbled down the hall to his room. Around 5 a.m. he, too, fell asleep. My 12-year-old daughter stayed up 'til 4 a.m. finishing the new Harry Potter. My 17-year-old is napping before dinner.

No one is rising before noon.

I am re-living a difficulty I had when we first came to Abu Dhabi a year ago: I keep misplacing things, such as letters I'm about to mail. But I know this will pass.

It is hot, but not oppressive, at 108 degrees. (In New Hampshire it will reach 88 today.) The air looks milky; it is full of sand and moisture.

Perhaps the biggest change in coming back to Abu Dhabi from the U.S. is the brightness of the sun. It is white here, so white I think it will bleach my clothes when I go outdoors.

Some of my plants died when we were in the U.S.
I may have to go to the Iranian Souk for replacements. With the sheer admiration I feel for the date palm trees swaying in the breeze, I'm not sure I can return without a baby palm tree.

The photo above, taken by M, is of the north side of Abu Dhabi.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Roses, Lawn, and Sea in Maine

This was taken by M, July 19th, near where we stayed in Maine.Posted by Picasa

Swimming off Southport Island, Maine

In five days we return to Abu Dhabi. I will be happy to be back - I've grown to love that city - but I must admit I'm enjoying the cool, clean air, the steel-blue water, and the rocky coast of Maine.Posted by Picasa

Creativity in Maine

Andrew Wyeth, who did some of his most famous paintings near where we are in Maine, said his father believed children need ample amounts of boredom in order to develop their own creativity. I think he was right.

We've had mostly beautiful weather during our vacation in Maine, but we've also had our share of rain.

Rain, fog, no television, no friends, and no phone. M deserves a medal for playing a record number of "Monopoly" games. There are other children around - we see them at nearby tennis courts for lessons - but they don't surface when our children play baseball or soccer on the big lawn below our house.

I think the lack of anything to do, the boredom that my children are experiencing, is bearing fruit. Fruit in the way of collaborative creativity.

The other day my oldest son, who is 17, started writing a play.

In the evening, as I read Babar and Zephir (by Jean de Brunhoff) to my youngest two boys in their bedroom, my eldest came in to sell the roles he'd created for his youngest brothers.

It rained this afternoon, beginning on the way home from our family's less-than-scintillating visit to a nearby town. Tonight all six of my children are at the dining room table reading the new script.

Even if they never spend another minute on this play of theirs, I love the fact that for a little while they are doing something creative, something with their minds and hearts, something that has nothing to do with computer games or movies or other technology that is served up to them for their entertainment.

This morning I tried to draw a picture of the incredible view out the living room window. I already respected artistic abilities, but my meager drawing made me put artists somewhere close to God.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


We got to Maine yesterday evening.
It was raining, puddles were everywhere. Even the pine trees over my car couldn't shield me from the elements. On the root-covered, uphill path to the house we'd rented by the sea, my sandals squished the soggy grass, my jeans and t-shirt got soaked.

When I packed for this vacation, back in Abu Dhabi, how could I've forgotten I was headed for northern New England? I should've brought warmer clothes. Water repellent clothes.

But that night's discomfort was a small price to pay.

Early the next morning I woke to the moan of lobster boats, stopping to check their traps and then moving on. I looked out the window: the rain was gone, the fog lifted. Dark purple delphiniums, pink spirea, and yellow lilies bloomed under a golden sun.

The living room of Cliff House overlooks the metal-blue water of the Sheepscot Bay. Rugosa rosebushes border a meandering path down to a rocky point below the house.

Three years ago M and my daughter Julia, now 12, spotted a white seal there. I'm hoping for a repeat sighting, especially for our two youngest boys, Albert and Hugh, 9 and 8.

The smell of the sea is even stronger than in Abu Dhabi. At night the air is chilly, filled with the scent of a log fire.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Keeping it Simple

In two days we leave New Hampshire for the coast of Maine, my favorite place in the world.

M arrived from Abu Dhabi. He and our eldest son, who is 17, then drove from New Hampshire to Washington D.C., where M had meetings. They looked at several colleges on the way down, our son checked out three more in D.C., and they're visiting two schools on the return trip. They arrive back in NH tomorrow evening.

The rest of us left the cabin by the lake last week. The morning we departed I saw 25 geese on my neighbor's lawn.

Now we are "camping out" in our own house in New Hampshire, taking advantage of a gap between renters. We don't have a stick of furniture, except a long oak table in the kitchen.
We are sleeping in sleeping bags, some of us using a towel or a blanket if we don't have a pillow.

I love the simplicity: I have one style cup for water, juice, milk, beer, wine and coffee. Every room in the house is spacious, clean, orderly with nothing in it. Our meals are usually one-dish affairs; Robby, 14, asked me last night why it's so much harder to clean up from dinner in Abu Dhabi.

The priority these days is on seeing loved ones. I haven't seen everyone I wanted to, but I've tried to make sure each of the kids has seen at least one friend.

When we move back to NH in July 2008, after a second year in Abu Dhabi, I wish I could refuse to take back all the belongings we've put in storage. I wish we could exist as we do now, with no curtains or "things" to slow us down from seeing the sunlight and the trees outside.