We Had No Hobbies - Or So We Thought
By Joanne Belviso Puckett

Every now and then, I have one of those “what are we doing here?” moments.
They creep into my psyche, and make me wonder why we live here in northern
New England, as if we must have taken a seriously wrong turn somewhere
between Bensonhurst and Prospect Park.

But it’s spring again; time for everyone to get back outdoors without fear of
slipping and sliding away.  My husband casually mentioned that his colleague
was going to take advantage of the nice weekend weather.  “She’s going hiking,
you know, probably looking for scat”.

“Looking for what?” I asked.  It was clear to me by the smirk on his face that he
had gotten the reaction he wanted and was going to enjoy this verbal one-

I was sure he was making the word up.  When I was kid, “scat” was something
Mrs. Marcangelo yelled at us when she caught us trampling the tomatoes in her
back yard.

So I got out the dictionary and worked my way through various options.

A jazz vocal style?  Nope. A small tropical fish?  Nope. Even I know you won’t
find that in these northern woods.

Then, there it was -- animal droppings.

Get out!  Who goes around looking for animal droppings? What a way to spend
a weekend.  Now there’s a strange hobby.  

Trust me, even if I had known what scat was when I was growing up, I assure
you, I would not have gone looking for it…not in Brooklyn, that’s for sure.

I thought about our friend’s scat-searching on and off until I finally asked her
over dinner one night, “Exactly what about animal droppings interests you?”    
(No such thing as boring dinner conversation among our friends!).

I was surprised to learn that there really were lots of things you could tell about
local wildlife from scat (as in “inky, pinky, stinky, minky”). It was a real, honest-
to-goodness hobby enjoyed by many here in the Upper Connecticut River

I bet she never had any “what-are-we doing-here?” moments.

My husband and I talked about it on the way home.  Okay,
I talked. My
husband just “hmmm…ed”, but after 36 years of marriage, “parallel talk” is
what we do.  

“What’s the matter with us?” I whined. “Why don’t we have any hobbies?”

We don’t bike. We don’t hike. We don’t play golf. We don’t ski or kayak, or go
birding or fishing or hunting. We are basically indoor, city people out of our
element in an outdoorsman’s paradise.

So what are we doing here?

We were fortunate enough to have portable careers, so one year, after visiting a
son at college, we actually decided to move here over a plate of garlic and olive
oil at Three Tomatoes in Lebanon, NH.  No surprise to us that garlic was a
harbinger of things to come.

I should have known that our “hobbies” in this new place, would be the same
as they always were: travel, shop, eat. For 20 years we did that across the
country and across Europe, and now we could do it all across New England.

Here’s how it goes. During our leisure time, we visit new cities, towns and
villages. We enjoy taking home a little bit of the local culture. We attempt to
shop in everything from big stores and markets, to out-of-the-way boutiques
and little mom and pop shops. But since we usually find that things are way too
expensive now, or we remind each other that we really don’t need one more
anything, we just end up people watching, window shopping … and eating
out; all no-cost or fairly low-cost activities, relatively speaking.

You could say we do some “hunting” after all -- for the cheapest gas stations,
the best markets, and the best B&Bs and places to eat.

I guess we are proof that you don’t have to be traditionally outdoorsy or sports-
minded to enjoy life here. There is something for everyone. Instead of birding,
try “people-watching” on Main Street; “fishing” for discounts; or “hunting” for
good food, good service and good prices, even if it means the only things we
“bag” are a few extra pounds.

I must admit that lately with the snow melting and the earth softening, I have
been noticing the wildlife footprints around the house.  I am curious about what
has been using my shrubs as an “All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet”.  Occasionally, I will
ask our outdoor hobbyist friends what kind of animal might have made the
footprints. And then I think about the fact that they were here before we were…
so I suppose I owe them.  Besides, I don’t want to be another Mrs. Marcangelo.

But, as for that scat thing…I think I’ll just pass for now.

About the author: Joanne Belviso Puckett is a freelance writer and the chief quality officer
at a northern New England medical center.  Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Joanne
and her husband Michael have lived in Hanover, New Hampshire since 1993.  The
previous 20 years were spent traveling throughout the United States and overseas with
Michael, a career Air Force officer, and their three children, John, Anthony and Ryan
Elizabeth.  Joanne is now “Nonna” to their first grandchild, Jack, whose parents she is
trying to convince to move back to New Hampshire!  Writing about family life and the
“baby boomer” generation offer her much needed comic relief from the dramatic world of
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