The School Bell Tolls

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Mostly Musings

Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee. —John Donne


Nope, sorry, John Donne. You’ve written a nice poem, but you’re wrong. The school bell does NOT toll for me. Not anymore. I am R-E-T-I-R-E-D. Mr. Donne, I am done.


Tomorrow is the first day of the new school year in Woodstock. It will mark the 15th time that school has started without me. How does that make me feel? Happy, mostly. Free and unencumbered, definitely. But just a little at loose ends, possibly.

I don’t miss the mountains of papers to grade, the never-ending lesson plans and meetings. Most of all, I don’t miss the feeling that I am responsible to so many for so much that I end up crushed under self-inflicted pressure to be perfect.

And yet… I do miss starting anew each fall, catching up with my colleagues, working with students who ask questions that challenge me, teaching in a sparking clean classroom. Having one more chance to get everything right—or at least better.

On the other hand, with retirement comes the great gift of time. If I feel like it, I have time to look up the entire poem that Donne’s quote comes from. Here it is:

For Whom The Bell Tolls by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Then, if I want, I can dig deeper and find the poem as Donne actually wrote it in 1624. It’s slower reading but satisfying to know I’m seeing his real words.

original poem

I can ponder the phrases and sentences. I can linger on key lines like: Each man’s death diminishes me/For I am involved in mankind.

And I can realize how timely the line is in light of the Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter slogans of our summer.


But when I reread this post, I notice something else. The book in my photo is by Ernest Hemingway, yet my quote is from John Donne. And I have no curious teenager here to shoot a hand in the air and ask why that is.

And, yeah, I guess I might miss teaching more than I thought.

Household Lions

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Animals / Just for Fun / Pictures

World Lion Day

According to Twitter, today is World Lion Day. If there’s any animal deserving of its own day, surely it would be king of the beasts. Aren’t they gorgeous?

I would have loved to visit these guys today, but my schedule didn’t allow for a trip to Brookfield Zoo. And it really wasn’t necessary to drive a couple of hours anyway. I have two of their smaller cousins, household-size lions, living with me.

So I called Angie and Shadow to come join me. Do something regal or cunning or cute, I commanded. They, of course, closed their eyes and ignored me.

Until I got out the treats. Shadow gobbled one and went back to grooming her lovely gray fur. But Angie, after having her treat, thought she could spare a few minutes to narrate some of my favorite photos of the two.

Angie: This other cat has lived here over two years now, and I still don’t like her much. She spends entirely too much time with my human. Even when we are hanging out in the same place, I don’t let her get too close to me. Like in this picture, I allowed her on the couch, but she had to stay on her own cushion. I’m the more beautiful one, on the right. Stripes are what it’s all about.


The most annoying thing is, she copies me. If I decide to help the human on the computer, she does too.


If I get in the mood to play, she does too.


I pride myself on finding unusual sleeping positions in the sun. So does she.


Shadow: I’m practically pedigreed. I am a Russian Blue. It’s true. You can look it up.


Angie: Commie.

The Beauty of Maturing Landscaping

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When I moved into my Abbey in October 2010, I didn’t really have expectations for how its landscaping would change over time. I guess I was concentrating on the home’s interior and just assumed that bushes would grow larger and I would plant flowers in the spring.

That, of course, is exactly what happened. But this summer I’ve opened my eyes to the changes and the beauty that now surrounds me. Before I offer some before and after photos, I want to say that I take no credit for the transformation. I am not a gardener; in fact, I have a black thumb. I love to look at lush, colorful landscaping, but I don’t have the talent or the work ethic to produce it. I enjoy visiting neighbors who do and admiring their outdoor spaces.

So consider these photos to show the minimum that can happen in six years of mostly benign neglect.

Here is what has happened with the hydrangeas that came with my home:






I planted the shasta daisies below.


Three years ago


Three weeks ago


Now this final comparison isn’t quite fair because I didn’t have equivalent pictures. The “before” photo was taken during early spring, while the “after” is from midsummer.


spring 2012


summer 2016

I love my yard—which technically is the common area nearest my home—just the way it is. But I’m also excited to see how it matures given another six years of growth.

Hunting Pokémon at The Maples

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Just for Fun

I step out my front door, ready for adventure. It’s time to see what this Pokémon Go craze is all about. I have a brain in my head, an iPhone in my hand, and tennies on my feet. I’m logged onto the app. Let’s go!

I barely get to the sidewalk when a neighbor drives by. She opens her car window and says, Watch where you’re going, Caryl. You don’t want to fall and break an ankle again… And what are you doing anyway?

It’s a good question. What exactly am I doing?

Just this. I’m playing the most popular augmented reality location-based digital game to come along in ages. I bet you’re glad I cleared that up, aren’t you? Seriously, come along with me. We can both pick it up as we go.

I’ve done a little reading about Pokémon Go ahead of time, but it turns out, not enough. This is going to be a challenge. After all, it’s a game meant for young people. If you doubt that, look at the first screen that pops up.


Yikes! It wants to know my age. Why? Well, at least the years go far enough back in time to include me. Encouraged by that, I proceed.

I’ve learned that the game allows players to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon—short for pocket monsters—who appear on phone screen as though in the real world. I don’t want to do anything fancy for my first outing. I’ll be happy to capture just one.

I missed the first burst of Pokémon popularity in the ’90s. I guess I was too busy adulting at the time and had no children or grandchildren to play with. So I don’t have a firm grasp of what I’m looking for on my phone. I walk slowly, one eye on the screen and the other on the sidewalk, to keep from breaking any bones.

While I walk in real life, my avatar on the screen walks too. I speed up, she speeds up—after a brief delay. I turn around, so does she. It’s amazing. Yeah, I know the avatar doesn’t look like me. I had trouble with that part of the set-up.


I’ve barely started down the street when I spot something coming toward me. Is it a Pokémon?


Nope, that’s Bonnie’s granddog Vernie. He’s real, not virtual. And really cute.

I keep going and half a block later I spot another creature. This time it’s on my screen. I get closer. Then, using my Poké balls, I’m able to capture this guy after a few tries.


I have to admit I’m proud to have protected The Maples from this Rattata. So I keep walking. I get down to Phase 2 and nothing else has showed up. It’s hot and humid, but I turn around  and keep going. I’ve decided to scan my entire neighborhood for these little monsters, catching anything that I encounter. In other words, I’m already hooked on the game.

I’m not having any luck, so I head over to our swimming pool. I’ve read that some Pokémon hang out around water. I don’t find any at the pool, though, just some folks enjoying the water.


After cooling off in the clubhouse for a few minutes, I’m back on patrol. On the way out to Phase 3, I nearly stumble over this creature.


Nope. Wrong game. This looks like an Angry Bird. Upon closer inspection, I see it has been chewed and slobbered on. It’s only a dog toy.

I get out to Phase 3 and walk past some young workers framing a house. When they notice me walking and staring at my phone, I hear a snicker or two. What? I almost say out loud. I may look like a crazy old woman, but I am protecting our property. I mean, our common area; it’s all common area here.

By this point, I’m sweating in a very unladylike fashion, so I start for home. Along the way, I encounter and capture two more Pokémon. These guys:


Finally home, I rush into a refreshing blast of air conditioning. I collapse on the couch with a glass of ice water, feeling pretty proud of myself. I grab my phone, and sure enough, there are the Pokémon, safely locked away in Poké jail.


The Maples is safe for now. And I’m overdue for a nap.