Last weekend our son Nathaniel (Nate) Popik married Suzanna Elkin at a beach wedding in Stonington, Maine, surrounded by family, friends and the occasional passing lobster boat. As promised, here are some photos from the happy occasion.

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The wedding arch built by Nate, decorated by friends and visited by a hummingbird early in the ceremony.

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Suzanna, accompanied by her brother David, walks to the site.

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The Elkin-Phoenix Clan

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The Popik-Mekjavich Clan

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For some reason, Augie, Elliott and Kamiko decided to sell apples to the wedding guests.


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Nate and Suzanna taking in the scene of their families and friends.




The toasts and roasts commence.


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The Dads.

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wedding rings A WEDDING IN MAINE

I am taking the weekend off to celebrate the marriage of our son, Nate Popik, to Suzanna Elkin. Against all odds, Nate, who was raised in California and Connecticut and settled down in Burlington, Vermont, met Suzanna, who was raised in Maine and has lived in Massachusetts, Mexico and other parts of the world, when she showed up to rent a room in his house in Burlington. This might be unremarkable except for the fact that Nate’s and Suzanna’s fathers were friends and colleagues in the Family Practice Program at UC San Francisco in the 1970’s. In fact, one of our first dates was a party at Suzanna’s parents’ house in San Francisco in 1975. If I believed in fate, I’d say these two were destined to marry.

In keeping with their temperaments and preferences, Suzanna and Nate’s wedding will be a simple affair conducted by a Buddhist and attended by lots and lots of family and friends from near and far. Photos to follow.

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quickstep LYING WORDSEvery time I read or watch the news, I get angry at how political jargon disguises lying words.  This election cycle (will it ever end?) has popularized the expressions “walk back” and “pivot.” “Walking back” and “pivoting are weasely ways to express, at best, flip-flopping and at worst, lying.

Consider “walking back” as it applies to the two main contenders for President of the United States. Hillary Clinton has“walked back” her explanation for using her private e-mail server several times as well as other statements (Ex:  “Hillary Clinton Walks Back Coal Remarks….”, May 2, 2016).  Donald Trump has “walked back” so many assertions, it’s a wonder he remembers how to walk forward. However, the current word of choice for Trump is “pivoted.” (Ex:  “For months and months, pundits, journalists and Republican leaders have been waiting for Donald Trump to pivot.”  (Fortune magazine, August 20, 2016.)  I’m not sure what that means.  Donald Trump has “pivoted” his positions on immigration, Iraq, Mexicans and on and on.

I have no hope that the lying will ever stop, though “walking back” and “pivoting” with likely be replaced by other misleading expressions. Meanwhile, I amuse myself by imagining Hillary and Donald dancing, a la Astaire and Rogers, pivoting across the dance floor, then reversing direction—Hillary dancing backwards in high heels, Donald’s hair fluttering in the breeze….

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AbieshomolepisMolehillmolshoop MOUNTAINS AND MOLEHILLS

Mole and Molehill



Why make  mountains out of  molehills?  Sometimes there are items I would like to share that don’t lend themselves to an entire blog.  Here are a few of them with links where appropriate:



Before you groan, “Oh, spare me!” just read this.  It’s good.  And short.

Most of my audiobooks are mysteries.  My mind wanders too easily to listen to non-fiction or even novels when I drive.  My current favorite author is Denise Mina, whose Alex Morrow mysteries are so good that sometimes I drive just a little farther so I can get to the end of a chapter.  Another good series:  the Venice mysteries by Donna Leon.

Somehow I got connected to the blog Cup of Jo by Joanna Goddard.  It shows up in my email once a week and is characterized as a “Lifestyle Blog” concerned with Style, Culture, Motherhood, Travel, Food & Life. It is more than that.  Cup of Jo has lots of useful information and I always read it.

If you like wildlife photography, check out  Okay, so it’s my husband’s website but he’s a really good photographer. Photos include animals and landscapes from Yosemite, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Madagascar, Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal and Antarctica.

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Vals tomatoes 580x435 GARDENING AND DEPRESSION

Val’s heirloom tomatoes

Gardening for many people is a cure for depression, a calming and even cheering activity.  That is true for me except towards the end of August, when the angle of light changes,  the echinacea dries out, daylily blooms give way to wrinkly green blobs, the seasonal birds start leaving; the whole end of summer is disheartening.  It will be another six to eight weeks until fall color kicks in and last year’s sweaters will begin to look inviting.  The dog days of summer are hard on flower gardeners because we watch all that we planted and tended wither and die, or at least look as good as dead.  Last week I saw a goldfinch picking seeds out of a dried flowerhead and it gave me a temporary boost, but it takes a relentlessly positive outlook to enjoy the waning of one’s garden–especially if, as in New England, six months of winter lie ahead.

But all is not discouraging.  In late August, there’s another time-honored way to ward off The Glums:  the end-of-summer harvest of home-grown tomatoes, cukes, corn and all the other tasty bits from the kitchen garden.  It’s enough to turn one into a temporary vegetarian.

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Val’s cucumbers

Photos of her vegetable garden by Valerie Knott, gardener extraordinaire.


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A keeper but we didn’t keep her.

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”
                           –John Buchan, Scottish politician and writer, 1875-1940

Last Friday morning at 5:30 a.m. Bill and I set out with legendary guide Tony Biski to “fish the rip” for striped bass off Monomoy Island near Cape Cod. If you know what that means, you’re way ahead of me. I learned that “the rip” is an area where the incoming tide hits the sandbar and speeds up, trapping the smaller fish. The big predator fish, such as the bass we sought, wait in the calmer water on the other side of the sand bar where “the rip tide” pushes the smaller fish in their direction. The result: a breakfast banquet for the bass.

Though I am granddaughter of a Croatian fisherman, my gene pool let me down.  I couldn’t remember how to cast with a spinning reel—when do I flip the bail? The last time I held a fishing rod was eight years ago in Patagonia, where I caught and released a 45-pound salmon. That was then; this is now. While I fretted and Tony tactfully offered helpful directions, Bill was catching fish—many, many fish.

If I was frustrated, it was nothing compared to Tony’s distress that I wasn’t catching fish. He worked very, very hard to make sure we caught fish. That involved moving the boat to different areas, watching the birds diving, changing lures, rods and strategies. Tony takes it personally if everyone doesn’t catch fish. I take it personally if I’m not casting well and can’t remember when to flip the bail. Other than that, I have low expectations. Often I don’t catch fish. One of the many corny sayings I’ve heard too many times is, “That’s why they call it ‘fishing,’ not ‘catching.’” My favorite description is from my daughter Sara, age eight at the time, who declared, “Fishing is boring but it’s supposed to be.”

The real charm of fishing is watching the sunrise, admiring the terns, who seem to catch a fish on every knife-like dive, enjoying the water and the spectacular view of Monomoy on a beautiful summer day. The gray seals were both curious and nervous. It turns out we were in prime Great White Shark territory. A shark-tagging boat passed us, we saw floating shark markers and Tony was very careful when hauling in the fish—Great Whites like to snatch fish as they’re being pulled into boats. Can you imagine what it would be like if a Great White leapt onto the side of your boat? That would not be charming.

Alexis bass 580x773 THE CHARM OF FISHING

NOT a Keeper

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Sea Lions Antarctica 580x386 ONLY A FEW FRIENDS

Friends in Antarctica*

All anyone needs is three to five close friends. This surprising (to me) information comes via Kate Murphy’s New York Times piece, Do Your Friends Actually Like You? That title caught my attention because it hadn’t occurred to me that people I consider to be friends don’t like me all that much, but according to recent research, only approximately 50% of so-called “friendships” are mutual.

This is a dilemma. How can one know who’s a true friend and who isn’t. It’s too humiliating to go around asking friends, “Do you like me as much as I like you?” And what makes someone a friend? In my twenties, I considered my friends were almost everyone I knew. These days, Facebook Friends may be that equivalent.  However,  I suggest you not compare others’ Facebook Friend numbers to your own. I tried this and learned that my son Ben has ten times the number of friends I have.

So what makes someone “one of my best friends?” Vassar English Professor Ronald Sharp, who co-edited “The Norton Book of Friendship,” defines friends as people you take the time to understand and allow to understand you. That means revealing things about yourself that you don’t let most people know. Under that definition, it’s easier to understand why we don’t have many “true friends.”

British evolutionary psychologist Robin I. M. Dunbar takes a brisker approach. He says, “There is a limited amount of time and emotional capital we can distribute, so we only have five slots for the most intense type of relationship.” He doesn’t sound like much of a people person—emotional capital? relationships as “slots?” And he uses bad grammar besides (“we only have” instead of the correct “we have only”).

Every week, Facebook reminds me to add a “Call to Action” at the end of this blog—something I seldom do because it seems silly and embarrassing. This particular blog is no exception. PLEASE don’t respond by telling me you are or aren’t one of my true friends. I’d rather assume you are.

*Sea lions photo by moi.

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Sunset Bay of Fundy 580x386 PHOTOGRAPHY AND STORY

Sunset on the Bay of Fundy,
Northern Maine 2016

The best thing about great photography is that it tells a story without words. It may set the stage for different stories, but that’s not important. The crucial part is that the photo “says” something for every viewer, something that stimulates the imagination.

When I first became interested in photography a few years ago, the idea of its telling a story was easy to accept; I love stories. But translating the story of the photo’s image–the sense of the scene’s significance, what it “says” about the life of the person, place or thing—is another talent altogether. Great photography requires multiple talents: technical proficiency, an eye for design, and a storyteller’s sensibility.

Today I spent time reviewing photos I took in northern Maine two weeks ago. These are some examples of the dreadful, the okay and the not-too-shabby.  The photo above, of a sunset, is pretty and kind of dramatic; at least it gives a sense of place.

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No story here. These Arctic Terns aren’t doing anything interesting.



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The close-up of the Tern on the left shows the gleam in his eye and a little attitude, which I like.

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Sunset Campobello 580x386 FAST FRIENDS

Photographing the sunset at Campobello  last week.

There are many kinds of friends: old friends and new, childhood friends, false friends, school friends and fast friends.

Last week my husband and I had the pleasure of making fast friends, or, more specifically, making friends fast. We spent only four days with a group of photography learners but by the end of that time, we were attached. The occasion was a four-day workshop in Northeast Maine with nature and landscape photographer John Slonina.

There were ten of us altogether: our leader John, who specializes in national park photo tours, my husband Bill and two other men, and five women including me. Most of us drove to upstate Maine; one woman flew from Florida. All except me were experienced photographers, well equipped but not overloaded with unnecessary equipment. They dressed appropriately for the changeable weather, did not complain, no matter how early or late the hour (NOTE: photography tours always include time shooting sunrises and sunsets), were patient and upbeat throughout the inevitable delays. In other words, this was an ideal collection of folks

I am a veteran of photo-centric trips. I approach these journeys warily but always hopefully. Some of the trips have been in large groups, others in small ones and all have been enjoyable and instructive, even one that was contaminated by a pathological liar (see my blog, (“Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire”).  But the friends we made last week were special: there was no drama, lots of cooperation and consideration of others’ right to good vantage points for taking photos. The pleasure of finding a group that “clicks” is confirmation that there are good people everywhere. Whether they become lifelong pals or passing Fast Friends, they were a pleasure to be with. So thank you John, Stan, Allison, Mary, Tina, Betty and Harvey. We will remember our time together.

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Dear friends and family,  I usually spend the week prior to posting this blog thinking about what to share. I try to write about what interests me and can be approached from a humorous angle. But sorry, folks, this week–the news from Baton Rouge to Minneapolis to Dallas, Nice, Turkey and Baton Rouge again–really knocked the wind out of me. I want to hold everyone I love close. All I have to offer by way of a blog today are these two things: a photo* of our visiting family (Sister Liz, her husband Steve and daughter Angela, along with the usual suspects*) and this pleasing link from CNN, “Wisdom For Every Decade of Your Life.”

*Photo by William C. Popik, MD

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