"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Criminal Mind at Work

In a week when news headlines reported price gouging at the pump, an Iraqi prison-torturer conviction, the indictment of a major political operative, and continued looting in hurricane-ravaged districts, I was appalled to read this particular story.

If this horrific incident is indicative of big city crime (in New England, that is), thank goodness I live in the country.

Not that we don't have rural crime. You know, like off-loading your rubbish at the "transfer station" (to use the politically correct term) without a dump sticker affixed to your vehicle.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Head-banging is really helpful

Yesterday was grey and drizzling, with more rain on the way, and I had a tendency to play all the most wistful tunes on my Dar cd.

In need of a mood-enhancer, I visited an electronics/music discount retailer to pick up Green Day's current album, American Idiot. I meant to do it all summer, but for whatever reason it never happened.

And still hasn't happened.

Because there in the Green Day section, I found what I really needed: International Superhits!. The! exclamation! point! perfectly! illustrates! my! reaction! That's the disc that walked out of the store with me.

In my car, I ripped off the cd wrapper--with all the usual difficulties--and popped that baby into the player. I fast forwarded to my favourite Green Day tune of all time, "Basket Case," and head-banged my way to Kinko's to photocopy some reference materials. Incredibly, awesomely cathartic.

Later I sat through a two-hour meeting with some very dedicated, perfectly sedate people in a formal conference room. We got a lot done. And the whole time, I was mentally head-bangin'.

I made a late-night supermarket stop afterwords, to pick up some necessary provisions. With Green Day's guitars and drums pounding inside my head, I barely heard the lite listening muzak in the store.

Navigating my way home through a massive downpour (welcome to New England, Hurricane Rita--please move on quickly), I was singing along and banging my head and feeling great.

What an outstanding collection. All the stuff that made me love Green Day from the very beginning--and never, ever hear anymore.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

On the Lake

Waking to exactly the sort of crisp, sunny, crystal-blue-sky morning that requires a drive to the Big Lake, I decided to do just that. Of course I brought the Dar cd along!

Passing the field where the appaloosas graze on gorgeous mornings like this one, I spotted an unfamiliar horse in the crowd, an all-black one.

the black horse

On the way, I paused at the convenience mart with the cheapest diesel around and topped up my tank. Couldn't help myself.

The villages at the bottom of the lake were busy--it's Saturday, after all--but no traffic at all on the winding road leading to my winding road in the woods.

the only divided highway in town
On our road, nailed to a tree, is a special sign. It's been there as long as anyone can remember. Proudly we can boast that we live on the "only divided highway in town." Impressive, right?

And here's what our famous "divided highway" actually looks like. (I believe this is an illustration of what's referred to as wry Yankee humour.)

view of divided highway

Exiting the car, I was greeted by the wonderful smell of wood smoke wafting from a neighbour's chimney. It's that time of year.

I settle down on the dock to work...at first concentrating is a challenge, my office view is so very splendid. Hardly more than one motorcraft an hour passes by, although I've seen several sailboats. All the summer people have gone, and the leaf peepers haven't yet arrived.

Glancing up and to my left, I spy the cottage through the trees, perched on the ridge.

A pleasant spot to await a phone call from the one I love--who departed London earlier today and headed to Dublin. And is probably quaffing a Guinness right about now.

Two other people I dearly love are in Edinburgh. No doubt sipping a peaty single malt.

And here am I--in paradise. At this particular moment I wouldn't exchange places with anybody.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Da Doo Doo Doo, Da Dar Dar Dar

I finally made it to the store to pick up Dar Williams' new cd, My Better Self. I'm such a fangirl that I would have been grabbed it on the very first day of release, but that intention was thwarted by circumstances beyond my control.

And, even worse, I wasn't able to attend her recent concert. We saw her perform when she toured this area, prior to the last album, The Beauty of the Rain. How I would have liked to hear her perform the material from that and this new release, as well as older songs. But it wasn't meant to be.

The new cd was well worth the week-long wait. It's early days in our relationship, but phrases like "the best ever" are already floating in my mind. That's saying a lot, because I adored the one that came before. The tracks I like best are recognisably "Dar Songs"--Teen for God, which reminds me of my distant days at Episcopal Youth Camp and church retreats, and Empire, a peppy, poppy tune with a heavy message that relates all too well to current affairs.

Oh, and her cover of Comfortably Numb is fantastic, so well suited to her voice and style. It's a duet featuring the Righteous Babe herself, Ani diFranco--kewl!

Besides listening to Dar and updating a nonprofit's website to reflect breaking news about the looming Hurricane Rita, I found myself doing panic buying. Sort of.

My radio woke me with an NPR commentator, calmly opining that gas prices could rise to $4.00 within 2 weeks, given the threat to refineries in the Gulf. I weighed this news against pleas from officials that people not top up their tanks, to prevent shortages. After an analysis of my upcoming driving schedule, I opted to fill up.

With my discount card, the price per gallon came out at $2.68. If the dire predictions prove true, I'll cherish that receipt.

My sister-in-law, who borrowed one car last week, returned it with a full tank (thanks!) and at present it's still mostly full and not being driven. Our third car takes diesel, which isn't really gasoline, and is about half-full. I reckon my/our fleet is ready to get me/us where I/we need to go for the forseeable future.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's Coming...

Yesterday was mild and damp--almost balmy--with more the atmosphere of Old England than New England. And even though it was only the 20th of September, I had a date with the snow plow man.

Yes, it's time to prepare for winter, although the warm colours of autumn are only starting to tint my hardwoods.

We live on a private road, meaning the town doesn't handle our snow removal beyond a certain point. And that point seems very far away during the depths of winter! Therefore, the people on my part of the road contract with somebody to plow the road, and contract with the same somebody individually to plow their driveways (if they lack the equipment to do it for themselves).

And we have two driveways.

The new snow plow man, a neighbour living beyond us near the end of the road, showed up to check out our terrain. Because both my husband and I mostly work at home, we don't have that sense of urgency our commuting neighbours do, and we don't mind if we're plowed out last.

While showing him where to push the snow, I had a flashback to the Great Storm of mid-March, which arrived while my husband was on business in the UK. I took these self-portraits with backdrop of snow mountains and emailed them to him in London, to prove that my weather whining was justified.

Here I am near the garage.

And over by the decks.

I know, these images have a creepy Lynndie England-ish appearance, and that yellow dot indicates that I'm making a very rude gesture. Normally I can deal with massive amounts of snow, but this was the second blizzard that came while my husband was away in lovely springtime London, and I was rather annoyed about that. And yet--I'm smiling! Because, amazing as it might seem, I really truly love winter and blizzards.

The snow plow man offered a very reasonable rate for both driveways. I like his local pricing very much!

As this glorious sunshiney, blue sky September day unfolds, I'll enjoy it all the more, knowing what lies ahead! But a part of that knowledge includes a faint tingle of pleasant anticipation....

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hectic times and Hard Work

Ran up to the lake cottage--taking advantage of a brief lull in my overly packed schedule of meetings and activities--and spent the night there.

My major contributions were a bit of groundskeeping (removing a leaf pile from our property, adding it to a bigger leaf pile across the road) and a lot of painting (bright new colour scheme in the big bedroom).

fresh paint in the big bedrooom

Look, we live in the sticks...ha ha ha.

our cottage is in the sticks

Watched an old cottage being busted up...I now have a very vivid impression of the term "teardown".

demolition, Day 1: crashing through the roof

But it's a part of lakeside history here on the bay, as the oldest portion of it used to be an ice house--for storing ice cut from the lake in wintertime. Here's the pile of rubble a the end of the first day of demolition.

the rubble at the end of Demolition Day 1

The place was rarely used, in terrible condition, and the docks need much repair. It has sold twice, for increasingly insane amounts of money twice in the past 2 years. We expect to see a new 3-bedroom house appear on this site someday--that's the local rumour.

So hot and humid yesterday, it was nice to cool off with a refreshing swim at dusk. And a refreshing dose of hard cider, very nice after a day of brush removal and painting on a warm, thick day!

cold and refreshing cider

Grey and drizzly and rainy all afternoon...more rain expected in the coming days (including a visitation from Hurricane Ophelia, according to the weatherman.)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Talk About the Passion...

passiflora incarnata aka passion flower aka maypopI have a passion for passion flowers. Not surprising, I suppose: it's my mother's favourite flower, and I guess her preference rubbed off on me. They sprouted wild along the roadsides where I grew up. Maypops, we called them, because they formed a seed pod that could be stomped on to make a most satisfactory popping noise. The most beautiful, miraculous weed imaginable!

Last year I purchased two passiflora incarnata plants from a reputable mail order nursery, and planted them in a tub on my deck. Before the growing season ended they put out a few blooms. I brought the tub into the house, keeping it in a bright spot...after all the leaves fell off I cut the plants way, way back as instructed. During the winter, I kept those stubby stems alive with occasional waterings.

In spring, they sent out new tendrils and pretty leaves. After the "last frost" date, I shifted the tub onto the deck--adding a newly rooted tendril (which I accidentally knocked off). It grew like crazy, so now I have a third plant!

All summer long, I was rewarded with bloom upon bloom.

I've let one seed pod grow and ripen, and plan to pop it very soon.

my maypop

After a brief rest, many more buds formed--the first one (pictured above) opened this morning.

Lady MargaretSuccess went to my head. This year I bought the showy red one called Lady Margaret--how could I resist? The catalog claimed it blooms "spring, summer, and fall," which is perfectly accurate. It's delirious happy on the screen porch.

I found out there's a Passiflora Society International. As I'm growing only two varieties, they probably wouldn't want me as a member....But nice to know my mother and I are not alone in adoring this glorious flower!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Glorious Fig update

Not long ago, I wrote about
my adventures raising a fig tree

The tree is thriving, and continues to amaze me. This morning I ate the largest fruit, so far.

Not only are the existing figs ripening daily, several new ones are forming.

It will be a busy few days--houseguests arriving tonight, library groundbreaking tomorrow, 4 hour meeting on Saturday morning, another meeting on Sunday. So, limited opportunities for admiring my miraculous fig tree. Or for blogging.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Life on and in the Lake

A weekend canoe ride was pleasant. Perhaps because we needed a brief respite from wrenching disaster coverage on television and public radio. Or because our harrowed souls were slightly restored by our calm, clear, fresh, spring-fed body of water, after days of seeing the hideous devastation cause by those cruel waters along the Gulf Coast.

I could drink from and bathe in this lakewater--many of our seasonal residents do so. Found myself wishing a pipeline could send it southwards...for beneficial purposes.

This is a view of what we refer to as "our front yard." The red arrow indicates our house's location. From the canoe, in the center of the lake, our woods appear so thick there's no way to tell there's a single-track dirt road, much less a house site, or an acre or so of grass and gardens.

looking towards our house from the middle of the lake

On our quiet journey, we passed several turtles sunning themselves. This is the first, on the far side of the lake.

the first turtle

Not far beyond, the second, which was very small.

a little turtle

In "front yard" area, we met the third turtle. Unlike the others, this one didn't dive into the water at our approach. She sat and sat as we paddled in for a close view, and maneuvered the canoe around the shallow waters.

a friendly turtle

Maybe she felt she knew us. This the territory of the females who cross the road to make nests in front of our house. After striking poses and letting me snap lots of pics, she calmly eased herself into the water.

The lake is quite deep, but in some areas there are large boulders and jutting rocks, like this one.

jutting rock

We're especially watchful, knowing huge rocks like this one aren't very far below the surface.

big boulder just below the surface

Also in the boggy bit of the "front yard" we saw these pretty stalks with white puffballs, some plant that's gone to seed.

a bog plant gone to seed

We returned home, wishing we could share what we had experienced with those who are suffering.

And then we donated still more money to hurricane relief.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina Relief

At times of disaster and distress, technology can create the most exceptional bonds between strangers and friends. Today is no different, as the blogging universe, the blogosphere, whatever you want to call it, bands together to spread the word of the importance of charity in this time of need.

Yesterday, unaware that this would happen, I added links to the right sidebar. There are so many more helpful organisations.

My charity of first resort is inevitably Episcopal Relief and Development. I have a long familiarity with the good work it does globally. And ERD isn't only handing out what's needed at a particular time (not that there's anything wrong with that), it lives out the "development" part of its name in real and tangible ways. Its efforts in the aftermath of the Asian tsumani were, to use an overused term, simply awesome. And they continue to be.

For anyone seeking additional information on opportunities to provide flood aid, in addition to the ones I've recommended, see the round-up at Instapundit and Technorati and Hurricane Katrina.

Received word yesterday that a New Orleans friend made it out of the city and has taken refuge in Mississippi. Some authors' sites are tracking the whereabouts of our colleagues who live along the Gulf Coast. They are in my thoughts and prayers, as are all the thousands of nameless strangers I don't know and never will.

Katrina came to my house last night--yes, all the way up to New England--in the form of heavy downpours and gusty winds and terrible humidity. She didn't put on much of a show. It felt terrible, hearing the rain pounding, providing my garden with much-needed water, all the while knowing the devastation and heartbreak she left in her wake.