Category Archives: Stories

My hike to Alp Muntatsch

One day last summer I decided to take a hike by myself. We were vacationing in Samedan, Switzerland where my partner’s parents used to live. Samedan is a small village in the Engadin, the upper valley of the Inn river. In every direction there are stunning alpine trails. I love hiking there with my family more than anything in the world. But that day I needed to be by myself to exercise my body and clear my head.

L'Hom Propuona e Dieu Dispuona
Scraffito

I started up the steep cobblestone road to my partner’s parent’s former house, still emblazoned in scraffito with the Romansch phrase her father had chosen: “Man proposes and God disposes.” [Wish you could see larger photos? Click on the images.]

Staircase
Stucco staircase.

As I passed by the house, my mind wandered through the apartment, holding the iron rail as I followed the curling stairway onto the stone floor, then padded into the Stüva (sitting room) and sat on the bench behind the slate table. By the time my mind was reacquainting itself with the mahogany music stand near Stuva’s the wood stove, I’d gone up the gravel road behind the house and almost reached San Peter, where dear Gaudi’s urn is buried. Continue reading My hike to Alp Muntatsch

Sauna

Whoosh

Sauna room, Lapland Lake

Hot air envelopes me. The change in temperature is like walking out into the blazing summer sun after a morning of stale air conditioning. After a few minutes I will be reminded how much I hate being hot. When you’re cold, you can always add layers. When you’re hot, there are limits to how much you can remove, especially in public. I check the dimly lit room: no one home. Good. I remove my towel, step up, and sit on the hot wooden bench. I close my eyes and try to relax. I wait.

I hear voices. My senses go on alert. They’re in the hallway: people going in and out of the bathrooms just outside. I reassure myself that if a woman were entering the outer room, I would have plenty of time to grab my towel while she made her preparations to come in. For many, sauna is a social affair. Last year, the two Russian women, old but still cross-country skiers with good form and plenty of endurance, had stayed the entire hour talking non-stop as they moved from outer sitting room to my sanctum and back. The large cartoon strip posted on the wall tells the story of a group of naked Finnish men having an uproarious time sweating together, jumping into a cold lake, going back in the heat, and into the drink again: sauna as party. Continue reading Sauna

One Morning

[When I wrote this in 2010, people could no longer be “busted” in Massachusetts for possessing small amounts of marijuana, but medical marijuana was a pipe dream. Pot was underground. Re-reading this in 2016, it seems remarkable that I thought this was worth a story.]

When I got up this morning, my brain was hazy. I bumbled around the house, and realized that if I rode my bike to my meeting, I’d run into a curb or fall over while waiting for a light to turn green. I decided to take the subway. I got myself out the door with my keys, sunglasses, wallet (including T-pass, amazingly enough) and iPad, on which I’m typing now. Or “tupping,” as it just corrected my misspelling. Is it really necessary for the iPad to replace a mistyped word with “tupping,” which means a ram copulating with a ewe?

Continue reading One Morning

An [Un]Eventful Twilight Boat Ride

In the middle of last summer, during our family vacation in New York’s Adirondacks, we went on a lake tour and narrowly avoided the dangers of my imagination.

Kota Tupa

A bustling cross-country ski center in the winter, Lapland Lake is a quiet retreat the rest of the year, shared only by those staying in the ten cozy and remarkably clean tupas. (“Tupa” is Finnish for cottage.) Every Saturday night, there is a bonfire at the small beach on the shore of the lake, where children and adults roast marshmallows for s’mores and trade stories on a provided theme, such as “why reindeer shed their antlers.”

Our summer evening’s storytelling “competition” was over. Everyone else had headed back down the 1/2 mile trail to the tupas. The 5-tier log-cabin stack of quarter-split logs was down to twinkling embers. The sun was low in the light-blue sky, but still well above the horizon of trees. Or so I thought. Continue reading An [Un]Eventful Twilight Boat Ride