Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Holiday Squeeze

I had to make some adjustments as I figured out—or relearned—how to Christmas while working full time.

We had the added complication this year of M's weekend work and play practice schedule.

Plus the plays and music concerts and other performances to attend ourselves.

We worked around, cut back, and made-do. I let some things drop—St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, the Winter Solstice hike and fire in the woods.

No one seemed to miss the missing celebrations, and I'm not sure how to take that—be happy that my kids are easy to please or disappointed that our traditions over the years didn't make more of an impression.

We DID host our traditional Hanukkah feast with friends, on the same afternoon we brought in our tree.

C and the boys took charge of decorating said tree, while I prepared latkes, and festooned it with miles of yarn garland from E and Z's finger-knitting days.

It took me until two days before Christmas to finish hanging all our ornaments, the same day I spun like a whirlwind, baking three kinds of cookies and my first-ever yule log cake (Black Forest flavor).

And we went on a traditional family Christmas Eve hike to the river with our guests.

Followed by family and feasting and, of course, round after round of gift-opening.

The greatest gift I received was five full days off to spend doing all of that baking and decorating, and a little last-minute shopping, and, of course, doing what I love best on Christmas: hanging out at home with my kids, watching them enjoy their gifts, nibbling all day on cookies and crackers and cheese, and just being for a little while, with nowhere to go and absolutely nothing we have to do.

I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season, too.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Memento Vivere

It is a shining fall morning and my husband, our three sons, and I are hiking at one of our favorite local trails. I say ourfavorite, because its a place weve visited regularly since the children were small, when the twins, Emmet and Zephyr, rode in backpacks and our oldest son, Milo, ran down the mossy trail, stopping to dig up Indian cucumber root and wild sarsaparilla and gnaw on spruce gum. Me and Papa are the plant eaters,hed declare. But today those children are disgruntled. They are eleven and fifteen years old and have better things to do than go hiking with their parents on a bright October day.
So begins my latest published essay, "Memento Vivere," which is about impermanence, growing children, and the artist Andy Goldsworthy and appears, alongside some gorgeous photography of Goldsworthy sculptures, in the Winter 2018 issue of Still Point Arts Quarterly, and which you can read, download, or order in hard copy here. Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, December 10, 2018

November Writing

I spent November trying to relearn how to be a writer who also works a full-time job. I remember back when I used to have small children and I made a zine, then blogged regularly, then went to graduate school, I was sometimes asked, "How do you find time to write?" I wish I'd had a satisfactory answer then, because I really need it now. One big difference is that I used to have children who went to bed at 8 p.m. Now the twins stay up till 9, if I'm lucky, and M until who knows when. And, though it's hard to believe, since I was so much closer to twinfant sleep deprivation days back then, but I think I need a lot more sleep now. If I don't get my 8 hours of zzzzz's, I'm zombiesque all day, which doesn't leave me much time for me. But I've been trying my best, and this is what I've come up with:

Early Mornings. Keeping in mind the essay "Five a.m., Writing as Ritual," by Judith Ortiz Cofer, I endeavored to get up at 5 every morning. I failed most days, but I did manage to get up sometime between five and six, which gave me somewhere between 15 minutes and an hour of writing time, in a silent house, with no one around being distracting; it's been a constant war between the gratification of a long writing session and the warm coziness of my bed.

NANOWRIMO. I've never participated in National Novel Writing Month, which falls in November every year, because in November I'm too busy panicing about the impending holidays without doing anything to prepare for said holidays. But somehow I decided that this year, during the month when I was starting a new job would be the perfect time to do my first NANO. And by doing NANO, I don't mean I signed up on the website (I didn't even visit the website once), nor did I track my word count, which came nowhere near the 1500-odd words per day required to reach the NANO goal of 50,000 for the month. I didn't join any discussion groups or attend any write-ins. What I did do was work on a novel every day of the month, working from premise to plot, sketching out scenes, fiddling with character details, laying out a rough outline, and revisiting one of my favorite fiction-writing guidebooks. I did not write a novel, and I'm totally fine with that. Perhaps by next November, I'll have a terrible first draft of this one and can rewrite it for NANO.

Lyric Essay. I took a workshop with the Maine Writer's and Publisher's Alliance on writing the lyric essay, which I've been interested in learning more about for a long time. From the workshop I got a better grasp on the form, assembled a reading list, and have a few ideas for lyric essays of my own. Now I just need more time...

Podcast. Coincidentally, I discovered the Marginally Podcast, which is about writing while working a day job, at almost the exact moment I returned to work and have been binge-listening to all the back episodes during my commute and breaks. When I was writing full-time, I had a vision of incorporating "professional development" into my days, but I rarely made time for these activities because I was so focused on getting my book done (and, I admit now that those days are gone, wasting too much time on leisurely breakfasts, obsessive news-following, and, though I wouldn't call this a waste, playing outside). Now, though I'm ever mindful lest I become not a writer but a person who takes writing classes or attends writing conferences or listens to writing podcasts, I feel like this is the exact kind of professional development I need—how to fit writing into the teensy margins of my life. I enjoy the hosts' back-and-forth chats about how they struggle with writing-while-working as well as the advice from their many guests. My writing community is mostly spread far afield, so it's been fun to listen and pretend I'm part of the conversation. I've picked up a few helpful tidbits along the way, like touch (or poke) your work every day, and the concept of default mode, that time when you're doing something like walking, that doesn't require a lot of mental concentration, and your mind can wander (I stopped listening to the podcast during my morning commute after that, so that I have at least a little time during the day to let my brain just be).

I've brought these habits with me into December, which is the month in which I really need to start panicing about the holidays (and actually doing something about them). I'm still getting up early to write (though taking Sundays off now), pecking away at my novel every day, listening to podcasts, and squeezing in writing, and writing-related tasks like submissions, publicity, website updates, editing work, inbox cleanout, etc., whenever I can—once the kids finally go to bed, after I walk for the first half of my lunch break, during stolen moments on the weekends. After the holidays are over, however, I'm determined to take at least a couple of weekend days per month to focus solely on writing, so that I can delve more deeply than 15 to 30-minute sessions allow. Because I need to expand my margins.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Showing Off ~ And Achieving Goals

I don't brag much about my kids on this blog, because it's much more fun to complain about them. Conflict is the essence of story, right? In fact, I don't write much about them at all anymore. I'd like to say that it's because I'm respecting their privacy and their agency over their own stories, now that they're getting older, but the reality is, older kids are just less interesting than little ones. Or maybe it's that parenting concerns are less urgent—everything is not a crisis anymore. Whatever the reason, I'm breaking that rule, and the not-bragging rule as well, because….

M won a pageant last weekend!

Each year, his school holds a fundraising event, which is part talent show, part mock beauty contest, in which senior boys perform group dance numbers, walk the catwalk in leisure wear, and show off their talents before a panel of faculty and staff judges and a crowd of adoring parents and classmates.

You'd never peg me for a stage mom or a pageant mom. I'm not even a very good sports mom because, while I get excited when my kids' team in general and my kids in particular do well, I also feel a bit of anxiety about the other team and the other kids. Whenever there's a winner, there have to be losers, and that doesn't sit well with me. (I was the mom who used to tell my kids after soccer games, in lieu of the score, "As long as you did your best and had fun, you're a winner!") I felt that same anxiety about all the enthusiastic young men onstage Firday night. At least the event didn't require much pageant mom-ing. I wasn't backstage with the can of Aquanet or anything. All I had to do was sit in the audience, take lots of pictures, and cheer.

M's participation was part of a long-held dream. He'd attended the contest his freshman year and, when I picked him up afterward, declared his intention of winning the prize when he became a senior. He held onto his dream for the next three years and Friday night brought home the crown in a tight race with a group of boys who dislpyed a lot of great talent, good humor, and inspiring enthusiasm. It's an inspiring story of having a goal and achieving it, and I've refrained, mostly, from saying things like, "Imagine if you'd made up your mind to become valedictorian instead." M, for his part, isn't resting on his laurels, but has now set his sights on the next big dream: Prom King.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Making Space

C and I started our house when I was pregnant with M, and at the time we didn't expect to stay here more than five years, let alone have twins four years later. So we only planned one bedroom. This worked fine for several years, since all the kids preferred sleeping in our bed anyway. But eventually things got tight. Over the years, we've adjusted the furniture to make use of the space, starting with bunk beds with a double on bottom, that the twins shared, later adding a loft bed for Z when he and E were ready for their own space. But as the boys continued to grow, the room has shrank, and M has been agitating for his own space, so for the last several months, C has been working to transform a corner of our basement into a bedroom.

When last we saw the chosen space, I'd transformed it into the Lego corner, but over time it became the dumping ground for whatever toys and junk no one wanted to deal with otherwise. It took a lot of transporting of stuff to the barn (yes, I know, not an ideal decluttering method, but this was C and M's project and I didn't have the time or inclinaiton to sort and find new homes for the stuff). A lot of weekends later, the corner was transformed into this:

It's so bright and sunny, not to mention fresh and clean, that I wondered why we didn't make a room here a lot sooner—for me. Wouldn't it make a nice writing studio?

But I'm a nice mom and didn't steal the room for M, but rather moved his furniture for him while he was at work. The room's cozy, just enough room for bed, dresser, desk, but it's a room of his own, and it's good preparation for dorm life.

A friend on Instagram suggested it looks a bit like this space:

I guess there are worse places to sleep than Van Gogh's bedroom. The rest of the basement still looks a lot like the first photo in this post (inexplicably, cleaning and organizing a space does not make it permanently clean and organzied). 

And here's the lad himself, in one of our many attempts at a senior photo.

Monday, November 12, 2018


I was astonished when, scanning through my email this afternoon, I opened a message from the Sunlight Press, announcing they had nominated my essay, "The Sparrow's Song," for a Pushcart Prize. This would be thrilling news to receive at any time, but at this moment, when I'm reconciling my identity as a writer with this new reality as a 9-5 worker bee, it's an especially welcome surprise.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

October 2018 Reads

A roundup of books I read over the last month. You can see past lists here:

September 2018 Reads
August 2018 Reads
July 2018 Reads

Well, I'm making up for my very frivilous book reading all summer with some serious reads this fall. (And much shorter lists, you'll note.)

Poetry. I won't say I resumed my poetry in the morning routine, since it didn't last longer than a week or two—as much time as it took to read William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. A few Romantic poets were cited in the series of environmental literature lectures I've been so very slowly watching, and this was the only one I happened to have on my shelf. (Wordsworth and Shelley, I'll be looking for you at used bookstores.) What do I have to say about it? Lots of sort of lion-and-lamb religious sentimentality, especially in Innocence. A little more clear-eyed view of the inequalities of the Victorian world in Experience (little chimney sweeps feature regularly). As I've said before, I don't know enough about poetry to give a good critique, and while I didn't hate it, I can't say I feel compelled to pick it up and read it again anytime soon, though I would love to see some of Blake's original illustrated versions of the poems.

Nonfiction. Many years (we won't say how many) after first learning about Transcendentalism in high school, I finally read Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I now understand why everyone talks about Emerson but no one ever actually suggests you read him. Because all through this book? He didn't really say much of anything. Lots of vague generalizations. There are some nice aphorisms, like "But if a man were to be alone, let him look at the stars." I have no idea what that means, but it sounds nice and would look good on one of those Craftsman style fireplace tiles. Maybe part of my problem with the book is that whoever owned my copy before me underlined and annotated the text, by turns rapturously agreeing and vehemently arguing with Emerson. She (I say "she" because of the handwriting) obviously came at the text from conservative Christian point of view and got very bent out of shape when Emerson personified Nature, as a sentient entity ("humanism!!!" she shouted in the margins). Maybe if I hadn't been so distracted and entertained by her comments, I'd have paid more attention to what Emerson had to say. Then again, maybe I wouldn't.

I read Nature as a prelude to that most famous book by Emerson's friend, disciple, and squatter. I will confess here to having never read Walden before. I've started it many times, but never gotten much beyond the initial chapters of nickel-and-diming the building of the cabin and the cost of buying beans. I just never felt it was relevant to my life, and it seemed like a lot of senseless rambling. This time, however, the book struck a chord with me. Maybe because I was coming to the end of my own personal Walden, two years plus a bit (Thoreau spent two years at the pond, while writing the book to follow the seasons of a single year) at home, spending time reading, writing, and appreciating nature. I wasn't—and never will be—as free of responsibility as old Hank, but it was perhaps as close as I'll get to the simple life. It was very interesting to read Thoreau's musings on work—that the more you work the more stuff (and food) you need, or think you need, so then you have to work more to maintain those things and get more things—as I prepared to return to the working life.

"I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and rather not a new wearer of clothes," he writes. Oh, dear, becasue my year of now shopping, which had not been going all that well anyway, went all to hell with the prospect of a new job and nothing to wear to it.

I also thought his musings on the content of newspapers as really just gossip very relevant to social media. And I was amused by his taking of "homeopathic doses" of gossip by walking into town each afternoon. (The occasional dip into Facebook can serve the same purpose, no?)

And, of course his descriptions of the natural world are just outstanding. There's a passage on owls that particularly stood out for me. It's too long to quote here, but I loved the line: "I rejoice that there are owls. Let them do the idiotic and maniacal hooting for men." I wonder what my anonymous annotator of Emerson would have to say about Thoreau? (Humanist!!! Pagan!!!).

Edited: A comment I got on FB informed me that I wasn't clear in this description about whether I'd enjoyed reading Walden. Here's how I responded: 
"I did find it enjoyable. This time. A dozen other times I wanted to throw it across the room. HDT struck me as boring, rambling, pompous, and entitled. But this time he was funny, self-deprecating, and self-contradictory (an unreliable narrator in the most endearing way) and honestly rapturous about the natural world. I don’t know what changed, but I think it was me not him."
Read-Aloud. Finally, the boys and I are nearing the end of our Amelia Peabody series, finishing up Children of the Storm in October. This one took us longer than usual—I think the start of the school year knocked us off our game—and it had a kind of complex plot, but it's a good one with lots of thrilling moments and twists. Having reread all these books at least twice over the past five years and reading them again now, I can see clues are planted along the way, all of which I of course missed the first time (or two or three) that I read the books.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Upcoming Publications

It's been a fairly dry year with regard to publication around here, but two pieces that have been long in coming are set to be published over the coming months.

First, an essay about life, death, autumn leaves, and Andy Golsworthy will come out in the Winter edition of Still Point Arts Quarterly on December 1. You can go here for a free digital subscription or to order a print copy.

Second, I have a short story, which I wrote way back in MFA days, and which has gone through many, many iterations and revisions, about love and life and fear and hiking in the desert, will come out as part of the collection This Side of the Divide: Stories of the American West on February 12.

You can go here to read more about the collection, and here to pre-order a copy.

I'm thrilled to see both of these pieces in print, and their imminent publication has reinvigorated efforts to get my last few orphan short stories and essays (those which haven't been back-burnered indefinitely, that is), out into the world.

Friday, November 2, 2018


When you have kids, you pay a lot of attention to firsts—the first tooth, the first word, the first step, all breathlessly anticipated, documented, and recorded. But lasts, those we often don't notice till long after the fact. When was the last time he fell asleep on my lap, or said "skabetti," or was small enough I could carry him? All lost to the mists of time.

Last year, as we were making our annual Halloween rounds of the neighborhood, I admit to thinking, "Thank goodness we're almost done!" Because kids can't go on trick-or-treating forever. Eventually they go away to college, right? (I remember thinking the same thing about breastfeeding and the family bed.)

So I surprised myself this year, when E and Z expressed ambivalence about the old trick-or-treat routine. Wait, I didn't know last year was going to be our last Halloween. And so, despite my own ambivalence, I coaxed them into Halloweening one last time.

E and I went out Tuesday afternoon and bought one of the last pumpkins at the apple orchard, which C helpt them carve into a great big eye (making use of a natural orifice in the pumpkin itself).

We had our usual jack-o-lantern bagel melts for dinner, which is as fancy as I get for Halloween vittles.

E and Z dug some old costume parts out of the dress-up bin.

And even I dressed up for the occasion.

We skipped the hay wagon, since it looked like rain, and our usual driver seemed less than enthusiastic, but we hit all the usual haunts, and spent the usual 10-20 minutes at each one, catching up with the whole neighborhood where C grew up.

It may not have been our last Halloween—who knows what the kids will want to do next year—but if it was, at least it was documented and recorded.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Change in the Air

After 2 1/3 blissful years as a free agent, I'm returning to the 9-5 work-a-day world next week.

One of my grad school mentors used to say that to sustain your writing career, you needed another source of income "to pay for the kibble." She was the owner of large dogs. While the only kibble we buy around here is for ducks, it adds up when the chipmunks and woodchucks and sparrows help themselves. Also, teenagers eat a lot as well, and unfortunately, you can't stuff them full of kibble. They're expensive in other ways, too—orthodontia, soccer cleats, car insurance (!!!), pants, pants, pants. We have three of them now (teenagers that is), and we also have a house we built and moved into 16 years ago, which means that our appliances and fixtures are starting to fail, in what I'm afraid is just the beginning of a cascade. Oh, yeah, and a kid going to college next year.

I had some really lovely teaching and freelance gigs over the last year, but not enough to pay for much kibble. I just didn't have it in me—the hustle. I loved the work, but I do not love asking people to give me work, or trying to extract photos out of people or scheduling interviews with people who have different priorities, or asking people to pay me. Not enough to turn it into a full-time gig (and with so much writing and hiking and drawing and reading to be done, who had time for a full-time gig?). I'll hang onto my regular clients, and I'll keep teaching—I already have two workshops scheduled for next year—and I'll keep editing at Literary Mama. I won't completely step out of the game.

I doubt you'll notice much difference here, since I'm already posting at a rate of about once per month. Then again, I posted a LOT when I worked full time (something about having only two days off per week and wanting to make those two days count), so you may be in for more of me (which is what everybody wants, right?). I'm reminding myself that I was VERY productive when I worked full time—I made zines, I blogged, I wrote a ton of essays and short stories, I completed my MFA, I studied to be a Master Naturalist, I did all kinds of knitty/crafty/cookery things. My goal is to both be productive and stay centered (i.e. sane). Wish me luck.

Oh, and did I mention, I get the summer and fall off, so that's pretty fantastic.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Fall Nature Journaling Weekend

I had the great good fortune to be invited to teach nature journaling up in the wilds of Maine a couple of weeks ago.

There was a smallish turnout—I guess I should go into teaching how to file your taxes or some other universally desired skill, but what fun would that be?

And, to be honest, small groups are my favorite, where each person can work at his/her own pace, and we all get to know each other so well, even in the course of a few hours.

The weekend started Friday evening and went through Sunday morning—not quite three days, but enough time to luxuriate in attention, observation, detail.

We practiced the basics of observing and drawing.

We went on slow hikes, noting each thing of significance as we went along.

We closed our eyes to use our other senses, and wrote about what we noticed, felt, remembered, and wondered.

It was a pretty terrific way to spend a fall weekend in Maine.

Friday, October 12, 2018

September 2018 Reads

A roundup of books I read over the last month. You can see past lists here:

August 2018 Reads

July 2018 Reads

September's book pile is quite a bit smaller than August's tower. I'd like to say that I was taking a break from reading to something even more healthy and productive—writing, say, or saving the world—but really the cause was TV. I had to catch up on "The Handmaid's Tale" and then I had to watch "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" as an antidote. The twins and I haven't even gotten through another whole volume of Amelia Peabody, thanks to the start of school and homework and lots of other things going on. 

I had to do my photo shoot at the library with my phone, because I'd already returned Rachel.
My one NF book for the month was a doozy: Journey into Summer by Edwin Way Teale, about his 19,000 mile cross-country road trip, tracking the phenomena of summer in 1960. Full disclosure, I started this one back when summer began, but I kept moving other books ahead of it in the queue. But when September came, I determined to finish reading it before summer ended (I think I may have gone over by a day or two). This book is really great. Teale and his wife start in Maine and make their way through the upper midwest, down into Kansas and around Colorado, over a period of three months. Along the way, they come upon some fascinating things, like a mayfly hatch in Lake Erie that turns roads slick with insects. I found myself wanting to recreate Teale's journey to see what's left of the things he saw along the way 60 years later (my cynical guess is that nearly everything is gone or diminished, except for bald eagles, which bird's absence Teale repeatedly notes). 

Two books on the list this month: First off My Cousin Rachel, by Daphne Du Maurier. After I finished Rebecca, a friend said I needed to read this one next. Once again Du Maurier messes with the reader's head and you're left at the end not knowing for sure who the real villian is. That's all I'm going to say, though. The other novel I read was Night Fall by Joan Aiken, which is the first novel of suspense I read, way back when I was a teenager. For some reason, I still have my copy and just for fun decided to read it again. It was still a fun read, though not what you might call "literature of enduring value," and it reassured me that plots don't have to be super complex to be engaging (and all the funny 1960s lingo is pretty entertaining, too).

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

September Newsletter

After a very long hiatus, I sent out a new newsletter yesterday. If you didn't get it in your inbox, you can see it here (I think some email services may be blocking it, because I didn't even get my copy). If you don't already have a subscription, you can subscribe here. If you've already subscribed but didn't receive your copy, check your spam folder and "promotions" tab. And if you try to subscribe, but it doesn't work, send me a message using the blog contact form at right and I'll sign you up manually!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Nature Journaling Weekend October 5-7

I'll be teaching a three-day nature journaling workshop at Little Lyford Lodge in Maine's beautiful wild woods near Greenville on October 5-7 for the Appalachian Mountain Club. If you've ever wanted to fully immerse yourself in observing, drawing, writing about, and just genearlly soaking up the natural world, this is the weekend for you, and I'd love to have you join me.

More information, including a workshop schedule, and registration here.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

August 2018 Reads

A roundup of books I read over the last month.

July 2018 Reads
June 2018 Reads January 2018 Reads

I'm a little embarrassed by August's book stack. I mean, it's so tall, it necessitated a portrait-oriented photo. And two books didn't even make it to the photo shoot. AND they're almost all beach books. But it was August, and what is August for, if not to read beach books at the beach (and in the tent, and on the hammock, and from the deck?).

Nonfiction. I'll start with the one serious book in the stack: Downcanyon, by Ann Zwinger. This, like Wind in Rock, which I talked about in June's list, is on dock for my next naturalists' book club meeting. I've read a lot by Zwinger in the last few years, and I think Downcanyon is her most beautiful writing. It's a year-round view of the Grand Canyon. She made trips there in all seasons, some by raft, others by research vessel, others on foot. How terrific of a life would that be? And the writing is just lovely, with the right balance of history and natural history with just a touch of the personal. (My book club wanted a book that had more nature than personal narrative, and all of Zwinger's books fit that bill. Though she doesn't completely excise the "i" or "me" from "memoir," the writing is first and foremost about what she observes and researches.) Zwinger, an art historian by education and illustrator of all her own books, has a truly artistic eye for the landscape, and a vocabulary to go with it, and paints vivid word pictures of all there is to see in the grandest of canyons.

Fiction. Oh dear. Did I really read that many books? I think I devoured three on our 5-day camping trip alone. Four are from Alexander McCall Smith's The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency series. I've read these off-and-on over the years, but had fallen behind recently. (How does that man write so many books? He's published 60-odd books in the last 20 years, since the first Ladies' No. 1 book came out. If only I could have a fraction of that creativity, imagination, energy, and je ne sais quoi.) Anyway, I picked up a couple volumes at the library booksale earlier this summer, and after I read them, I picked up a couple more at the library. They're nice, quiet reads, full of gentle wisdom and mild humor, and they make you feel like all is right in the world, as long as Precious Ramotswe is on the case.

I also read five more Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels books. I'm not even going to list them here. I didn't even get one in the photo (it was buried on my nightstand and I'd forgotten about it until I dusted some time later). I'm starting to fear for my mental health. But, I am happy to report, I'm slowing down on the obsession. I've mostly exhausted the supply from used book purveyors in a two-hour radius of my home, and I'd say I was starting to exhaust my capacity for modern gothic, except that I also read this:

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier. I remember as a kid seeing this book on my mother's bookshelves, and probably on the shelves of other people's mothers. I'd always assumed it was an up-scale romance. Boy was I wrong. It's described on the on the front cover as "romantic suspense," but I wouldn't consider it terribly romantic (almost anti-romantic). However it is suspensful, from the very first sentence (which I can't quote exactly, since I gave my copy to a friend, but which goes something like, "Last night I dreamed I was back at Manderley…"). You know something terrible is going to happen. And that it has something to do with the mysterious, late wife of Mr. de Winter. And when you find out what does happen, you are forced, against your own good sense and moral compass, to root for the perpetrator to get away with it. It's a book that messes with your head. And it's a book of lush, lingering passages of description, and a narrator whose fertile imagination fills the pages with daydreams about what might have happened, what is going to happen, what may be happening right now, elsewhere. It's a mesmerising page-turner if I ever read one.

Read-Aloud. E, Z, and I are still working our way through Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody series, last month reading The Golden One. Not much more to say about these books, which I'm reading for at least the fourth time (so they must be good), except that it's pretty darn nice when your eighth-graders still want you to read to them (even if part of their motivation may be to get out of reading to themselves).

Friday, September 14, 2018

Seah Kayaking and Nature Journaling

The very first thing I did the first time I came to Maine was go on a five-day sea kayaking trip. I went on another a year later and took kayaks out for shorter adventures during my two years in college on the coast. I bought a used ("tupperware") boat many long years ago, but only had it out on the ocean once or twice before I had kids and my kayak became a dust- and spider-collecter. I've gone out sea kayaking maybe twice since we had kids (one of those trips is chronicled here). And I didn't know how much I missed paddling, that salty film on my skin, even lugging heavy boats over mudflats.

Then I had the great good fortune to have been invited to teach a nature journaling workshop for Northstar Adventures and I spent last Saturday paddling with a small group of people in beautiful Penobscot Bay, from Castine Harbor to a pair of islands in Brooksville.

There we explored the shore, did a variety of writing and drawing exercises, and ate a delicious lunch (some of our group even took a swim in the cold water).

It was a pretty divine day and I was so happy to be back out on salt water (and wondering why the hell we live in Maine but inland). With each workshop, freelance gig, and piece of writing sold, I feel one tiny step closer to my career goals (which I once articulated as, "Go canoeing and write about it.") Yet, as we speak, I'm sending out resumes, because the demands of three teenage kids (all of whom have stomachs, feet, and teeth, three expensive body parts), a house whose appliances and fixtures are all exactly 16 years old and therefore all meeting their demise at once, and two 20+-year-old cars mean that the necessity for "real job" is becoming unavoidable. Which means that going canoeing and writing about it will once again become a weekend/evening/lunchbreak/interstitial pursuit. I won't say I'm not sad about that.

But in the meantime, if you want to join me for a THREE DAY!!! nature journaling workshop, I'll be teaching at Little Lyford Lodge in the Greenville area for the Appalachian Mountain Club. See here for details.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Summer Round-Up

I thought summer wouldn't go by so fast this year, since we didn't take a three- (or eight-) week road (or hiking) trip in the middle of it, but, if anything, I think it went faster. After the first day of "Hey Mom, hey Mom, hey Mom," I knew I had to sign E and Z up for a LOT of camps, which I did, which was nice for me (and probably for them, too, but they won't admit it), but it also resulted in a lot of the same kind of rushing around to get places on time that characterizes the rest of the year and is, I believe, a huge contributor to making time fly by. But, this summer was not ALL rushing around. Since my last, 4th-of-July update, we took a weekend trip to Vermont (for a funeral and some college tours, but also a bit of sight-seeing and hanging out in swimming pools; I have no photo evidence of that trip, however).

We also went to the beach.

And I, without kids, did some bird-watching.

And saw Maine's peculuar red-billed tropic bird.

And some bonus seals.

We went to the beach again.

And we went on a 5-day camping trip.

With 4 other families, for a total of 21 people, 12 of them being males under the age of 18 (five of those being males 13 years old).

While there, we climbed a small mountain.

Then we went to the beach again.

And we went hiking again.

And, finally, we celebrated the nominal (though not calendrical and, this year, not even weather-wise) last day of summer by taking a gorgeous boat ride among harbors and islands and coves.

This summer may have gone by too fast, and it may not have been marked by an epic vacation, but it was still pretty darn nice.

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