"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

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Breakfast with Bramble

These are the hand-feeding shots I didn't take yesterday...Bramble and I have already achieved a high level of trust, the camera was no big deal.

Off to play in my garden, where lots of bulbs are poking up!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Making Friends

A few minutes before I took this photo, I was sitting on the front steps with this chipmunk, who was eating seeds from my hand. I decided not to startle it with the camera, so came inside to shoot him.

This is my friend Bramble, who dwells beneath a blackberry bush along our driveway, at the edge of the woods. Bramble has been with us for quite a long time. I think I called him/her something else last year, when he/she was living beneath the Saab we park next to the garage. My chipmunks' names are usually directly connected to the location of their burrows.

And here's a view of the little lake--all the ice cover is gone (except a tiny strip hugging the shore, which isn't visible in this shot.) Nice to see open water again!

I'm off to the hairdresser today. All this spring weather means I need a new springtime "'do" !

Monday, March 27, 2006


crocus in my front garden

Look at what's blooming in my front garden!

I've got crocus scattered round the property, in sunny spots and shady ones, but this batch--an early variety--is always the first to bloom.

The retreat on Saturday was very positive and productive, though quite exhausting. It was great to get out, after 10 days of being housebound, but it flattened me! I spent all of yesterday recovering--slept late and napped a lot on the sofa, through the day and night.

Thanks so much for the healing wishes...they've really helped a lot! I'm no longer treating myself like an invalid. In the next day or two I plan to resume my daily workout. And I'll be making all my appointments this week. Today, in fact, I've got an afternoon meeting. I'm responsible for bringing snacks, so this morning I've been baking Spicy Apple Squares. The house smells heavenly!

The sunshine and warmth are improving my mood! So is the fact that ice is nearly all the way out on the little lake. I'm already looking forward to canoe rides.

And those crocuses are boosting my optimism, too! Won't be long before I can start playing in the dirt. I'm so ready for gardening season!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Signs of Spring

The health report would be just too pathetic, so I'll keep it short. The good news: after 4 & 1/2 days in bed, I'm ambulatory. My eyes and head still hurt, but I'm reading again, so I can keep myself moderately entertained.

The first day of spring has come and gone...wasn't able to do my usual equinox egg-balancing trick, but that's okay.

The chipmunks have been above ground and active for a while, and the best viewing is right at our doorstep. Lola and Shadow, bored with sick room duty, amuse themselves by watching for the critter.

Here they are looking out at it.

Here it is looking back at them.

The feeding bowl is kept filled during the day.

Lola quickly gets bored with watching, but Shadow is a chipmunk fanatic and can't get enough!

We have robins in the yard. Our gorgeous red cardinal visits our feeder every morning now. The woodpeckers are very active--on the suet block and in the forest. Yesterday a pileated woodpecker was somewhere in the higher ground, chopping down a tree with his beak, from the sound of it.

My spouse attended the Monday night library meeting, and the verdict on building completion was more hopeful than anyone expected. He brought me home a Frosty from Wendy's. He had a director's meeting last night, and brought me home a Frosty from Wendy's. Tonight--planning board meeting. And maybe another Frosty for me?

Obviously it's a meeting-free week for me, by necessity. However, I've got a very important day-long retreat on Saturday--my first outing, no matter how decimated I feel. After 10 days of being housebound, it'll be good to go somewhere. Another person is facilitating the thing, so no pressure on me. If I'm not quite up to driving, my personal caretaker has offered to chauffeur me. Even if it means a quick zip into Wendy's drive-thru.

Time for my afternoon nap. (Proof that I'm still extremely direly ill. Normally I don't do naps. Naps are for little babies. And the elderly. And sissies.)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Paging Dr. House

Thursday was a fab day. I was full of energy and optimism. I met a priest friend for lunch downtown. Then I went to the mall, I needed to stop in at Bath & Body Works to check out Dr. Patricia Wexler's range of face care products. She's a big time NY dermatologist, whose over-the-counter skin care range made it's debut several months ago. I read about it in Vogue and W and other mags. I thought I'd check it out. I've never followed any "program" of skin care. I rely on a simple regimen and fortunately have good genes. But I thought I'd learn more.

I'd just got out of my car and was crossing the parking lot when I felt the urge to cough. It was a weird cough. I didn't know where it came from. In Bath & Body Works, I started feeling dizzy. I thought it was because the starter kit for Dr. Wexler's daily skin care regimen wass 50% off.

Within a very short time it wasn't Dr. Wexler I needed. It was Dr. House.

I was real sick, and getting sicker. By nighttime, I couldn't sit up, couldn't read, light hurt my eyes, my head ached, I couldn't get comfortable.

I barely remember Friday. I spent all day in bed. My fever was 102. Muscles ached. Couldn't read. Couldn't watch tv. Couldn't go to a friend's dinner party--sent husband by himself.

I sort of remember yesterday. I spent all day in bed. My fever was 102. Muscles ached. Couldn't read--eyes hurt.

We didn't know what was wrong with me, only that it was bad. Even the heartless Dr. House would've pitied me. My devoted caretaker decided to play House himself. Since I wasn't able to get myself to a doctor, he went web surfing to figure out what was wrong.

He says I have all the symptoms of the flu. I said I didn't think there was much flu in the area. He said there definitely is.

Well, if this is flu, I've never had a real flu in my whole life. This malaise is unprecendented. This is the sickest I have ever been. I was blessed with a good immune system, but for once it really let me down.

Because it was St. Patrick's Day weekend, last night I limped to our downstairs sitting room, propped myself on the sofa with some pillows, and we watched The Secret of Roan Inish.

I spent today in bed. Fever is down. Head and eyes and muscles still ache. I'm weak and very cough-y. I did get up, eventually because, as I said to my husband a short time ago, "I'm really tired of this room."

I'll miss 2 important meetings tomorrow. (One of them is the Library's "what do we do now?" meeting.) I've cancelled a Tues. dental appointment.

If I get to feeling a little better, I know I'll be crazy bored. But, if I get to feeling a little better, I might be able to sit up in bed and read a book. Or use a laptop.

I've got a couple of really good nurses. Lola and Shadow hang out in the bedroom with me. Mostly they're sleeping, too, but occasionally they come over to the bed to check on me.

Time to take more drugs.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wednesday Woe

At the town elections yesterday, the voters did not approve the ballot item that would've funded the completion of our new town library. I don't know what happens now. There's a meeting of the library Capital Campaign Committee on Monday evening.

I'm so bummed. About $800,000 has been spent already, the building is up. Only the interior is unfinished. And there it will sit, empty and useless. Unless we get a really big grant or something. This was a worst-case scenario I wouldn't let myself envision. The Porter Reading Area that my husband and I funded actually exists, only now there's no saying when I'll be able to curl up in my window seat with a book on my lap, gazing out at the mountain.

I'm also mad that the voters didn't even approve a $2000 warrant article for a snazzier town web site. That was the cheapest item on the ballot, and the impact on the property tax rate was almost nonexistent. Go figure.

But there's good news: my husband was re-elected to his Planning Board position (it helped that he ran unopposed!)

Another bright note--I submitted all my articles and things before their deadlines. A good thing, it meant I've had time for some volunteering--on Friday and Monday I helped a nonprofit close its offices. A lot of stuff accumulates over 17 years! We killed a lot of shredding machines on Monday.

Had an interesting time last night, in the big big city, when I participated in a political focus group. The moderator, very well known in political circles, was hiding behind a scruffy beard but I reconised him from television appearances during the last Presidential election. We were responding to and rating potential candidates for the '08 election. My favourite candidate tested the best, so I was chuffed. Not only was I fed and given a soda, they sent me off with a crisp new $100 bill for sharing my opinions for a few hours.

Didn't get home till late, but it was a gorgeous drive under the Full Worm Moon. The road I use (partly to evade the toll, and mostly 'cause it's so scenic) follows a really big river, and the smaller river that wends in and out of the little towns around here, including my own.

After an appointment today, I'll be dividing my time between the work in progress and socialising. Coffee with a friend tomorrow, dinner with a bunch of friends on Friday night.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Snowdrop, Shingles, Syrup & Sheep

This was a perfect March day, bright and breezy, and fifty degrees or more. Before our excursion, I examined the snowdrops poking up through the lamb's ear in my front garden (more about lambs later!) The snow has melted, so time to pull away the fallen leaves to expose my bulbs to the sunshine.

Our first stop today was the cottage on the Big Lake. We were nearly there when we realised we had a very flat tire. We pulled off the road and popped on our spare, then carried on.

The lake is mostly still covered with ice, but the water around our dock is opening up. The gale force wind was giving me a bizarre kind of "up do" on one side of my head.

One recent windstorm ripped away some flashing and stripped off shingles from the rooftop. We found them scattered on the ground, all round the house.

Fortunately, there's a layer of old roof material underneath the current layer, so no moisture leaking into the bedroom.

Here's today's lake traffic.

The next stop was the hilltop farm we visit every year at this time, for the maple sugaring.

This was their first day of tree-tapping. Here's the old fashioned method, catching the sap in metal buckets.

Drilling a new hole.

Sap emerging. Tap that maple, quick!

The modern method: rubber tubing. (My husband inserted this tap himself!)

Stoking the furnace.

Steam venting from the evaporator.

After tasting today's syrup--delicious--we visited the sheep and new lambs. Here's the welcoming committee.

Our favourite little lamb, the youngest and wobbliest, sucked on my fingers like they were teats!

Leaping out of the manger.

More cute sheep pictures....

On the way home we stopped in the village to rent a DVD and pick up some Singapore curry noodles. Time to eat them--now!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My Amazing Job

Writing's not really a "job," it's a calling. Or a habit. Possibly a compulsion?

Some days, it's less than joyous. Other days, I truly have to pinch myself.

I'm working on a novel about a real couple. Several years ago, I happened to meet a descendant of theirs, an English nobleman whose father is a duke--and who will one day hold that title himself. The same ducal title that belonged to my male protagnonist. Amazing!

In the course of my research, I've been locating and collecting images of this couple. I'm desperate to know the colour of my heroine's hair, for one thing, so my descriptions of her will be accurate.

The best source of this information is a portrait of her hanging in Hampton Court Palace outside London--which happens to be one of my favourite places in England. It makes me crazy that on more than one occasion, I've stood in front of this portrait, back when it meant absolutely nothing to me--and now that I'm thoroughly obsessed with it I can't even remember noticing it!

Lately, emails have been flying between me and various curators of the royal palace collections, as I plan my return visit to Hampton Court so I may stand and gaze upon this fascinating lady and pay appropriate attention to her appearance. Receiving emails from members of the Royal Household is also amazing. And I greatly appreciate their responsiveness and helpfulness.

I must drag myself away from the project three days this week to head for the city for meetings. Today my husband and I will drive there together, and after our meetings we'll continue celebrating my birthday at a fave restuarant. They mailed me a coupon granting me a free birthday meal any time during this month.

Our red cardinal stops by every day now. This morning, he was warbling to somebody--and the somebody warbled back. We hope it's his girlfriend or wife, and that they'll settle down right here this spring and raise lots of little cardinals.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


My birthday came in like a lion, with fierce winds. At about 9:45 or so, the power went out as did the phones. We knew it would be a gorgeous day and had already planned an outing, so we hopped in the car and headed for the coast. The electricity was out in our town, and the next and the next. When I phoned the power company with my cellphone, I learned that half a dozen towns or more were affected. A good day for a field trip!

We drove to Maine.

Here's my favourite "lobster tank."

Our first stop was Kennebunk for some shopping. Since I was determined to "see the sea," a time-honoured birthday tradition, we headed for Kennebunkport. Usually we don't--in summertime, high season, there's no getting near the place. Today, we had it all to ourselves! The road to the ocean passes through the heart of the picturesque and historic village, settled in the 1650's.

Passing the adorable Wedding Cake House, I had to stop long enough to snap some pictures.

I don't think I've ever seen it surrounded by snow.

Easy to see why it has that name--it's so well decorated!

Below is the Bush family compound on Walker's Point. It, too, was deserted. They gather here in August and Labor Day--all except the President, who almost never shows up. For some mysterious reason he prefers to cut brush in the boiling Texas heat than hang out on the oceanfront.

Our next stop was the lighthouse at Nubble Point, near York. A nice photo op for the Birthday Girl's official portrait. The wind almost blew me off the cliff!

As we headed towards the shopping mecca of Kittery, I phoned home to check whether the phone was working. Indeed it was. When the answerphone picked up, I knew the electricity was back, too. To celebrate, I bought a beautiful skirt at Coldwater Creek.

Portsmouth was our final stop. Because we'd done so many restaurants during our trip South, including an early and very festive birthday dinner with my parents, I wanted a simple meal--but something fun. The obvious choice was a nifty little downtown joint called The Friendly Toast. It has an eclectic menu, and a hip, kitschy, 50's era ambience--as you might guess from the sign outside.

We drove home into one of those awesome sunsets that I can't help snapping, even from inside the car.

Must run, more celebrating to do!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Room of One's Own

Our little town has needed a new library for quite a long time. The one we have, constructed in the early 1900's, is very historic and very tiny.

Almost since moving here, my husband and I have volunteered with the various committees that worked to build a new facility.

Last September, we had a groundbreaking ceremony for our dream library.

And tonight, for the very first time, the Library Committee held a meeting inside the (unfinished) huge new building. It's about 7200 square feet, and it feels enormous, partly because it is, and partly because there's nothing in it yet!

My husband and I donated for a specific part of the building, the Adult Reading Area, a sitting and study area adjacent to the adult stacks. (Which, within our household, is fondly referred to as the Porter Reading Area.)

On this partial view of the exterior, the P.R.A. is that bump-out portion of the building on the right side.

Here's the interior of the Porter Reading Area. In addition to the chairs and other furniture that will one day appear in this space, the design includes window seats. I love window seats. Ours--I just can't help feeling proprietary--will overlook the historic Town Hall, recently restored, and a distant mountain.

Having been inside, we're so impatient for a grand opening. We continue working hard to raise additional monies--from the town, from private citizens, from foundations--in order to complete the finishing touches.

But we have abundant proof that the long-held dream is getting ever closer to becoming a reality....

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What March Looks Like

March is coming in like a lamb--by New England standards. It's sunny and bright--but we're enduring a bitterly cold spell.

This is traditionally our snowiest month. We're expecting a few more inches tomorrow, no big deal. At least the birthday forecast looks clear, which means I'll have an outing. Probably to Maine.

For a few days now we've had a visiting cardinal. This is very exciting for us. Although they hang out close by, up near the big pasture, they rarely--as in once or twice a year--venture into our more thickly wooded territory. I'm guessing the frigid temperatures might have something to do with his appearance, not to mention the constant supply of safflower seed. He's feeding on the ground, but also perches on the feeder.

At this moment a flock of robins are eating the red winterberries outside my office window. They winter over in New England, but we don't usually see them round here until later in March.