"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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sunny Saturday

Ruth and I did have our walk yesterday, during a dry period between the morning drizzle and afternoon deluge. The temperature dropped sharply, and by evening it was cold enough to justify a log fire. It was Ruth's very first fire. She wouldn't get too close, but sat at my feet, watching the flames with great interest. I was sitting on the sofa with my Dana on my lap, tapping away at chapter.

This morning I had French toast for brunch.

The day is wonderfully clear and bright. More traffic on the lake--weekenders in their boats, a pair of seagulls soaring above the Bay, and my three-loon chorus. They've been in the "front yard" all morning, close enough to the dock to photograph.

This new bottle of dishwashing soap (I did not purchase it myself) gave me a good laugh when I unearthed it from under the kitchen sink.

Why would they bother calling it "Non Ultra" Dawn? Seems to me the choices ought to Dawn and Ultra Dawn. I wonder what the difference between the two might be? Whatever possessed them to remove the "Ultra-ness" from this version?

Some time weekend Ruth and I will move back to the Lodge, but will return later in the week with Lola and The Chap.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Three Loons, Two Book Recommendations

If yesterday was quiet, today is even more so. Rain is falling, and there's a light fog--it was thicker early in the morning, the mountain across the Bay was completely obscured. No boats. I've seen a loon, but he's not making a sound.

Yesterday, the three-loon chorus started up. I wasn't able to catch all three in a photo, but here's the leader of the chorus. It might not be apparent, but his beak is open--I caught him in action.

No long walks today, because of the weather. Ruth and I have been and will be playing indoor games of fetch, for exercise, and doing our homework for Monday night's obedience class. Yesterday we altered our route somewhat. We walked to the Point, but instead of going round it, we sort of went over it, on the hill road.

I've finished Dark Angels and can definitely recommend it. I liked the female protagonist immensely, partly because she wasn't always likeable and mostly because she was so true to her time and place. Koen offered a boldly unusual depiction of Louise Renée de Kerouaille, who is prominently featured. Charles II came across as complex and charismatic and conflicted, as indeed he was.

My other recommendation, in the area of craft, is Novelist's Boot Camp by Todd A. Stone.

It caught my eye at Borders, and at a first glance it seemed easy to read, with solid advice. And I'd reached that place in my book where I want to think about it as objectively and ruthlessly as possible. Drill sergeants are about as ruthless as they come. So I bought it.

The military idiom and metaphors might be gimmicky, but for me, this little Army-green book was a goldmine of inspiration. Although my characters and story are already rather well defined, the boot camp book helped me view the relationships and conflicts and action through a new and different lens. I jotted notes, made fresh outlines, re-thought some plot points and found ways to strengthen them.

I've got an entire bookcase stuffed with books on craft, for storytellers and for screenwriters. I have my favourites, and had my not-so-favourites (those would be the ones I offloaded to a writing group's circulating library many years ago.)

So I don't say this lightly when I proclaim that for me, Novelist's Boot Camp is a keeper!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Longhand Day

Just now I was wandering the hillside with Ruth, camera in hand, seeking pretty colours for nice pictures.

The morning is mild and grey, with a smattering of sunlight breaking through the clouds. It's utterly still--no breeze at all. And silent--no birds, no boats.

It's a perfect writing day, and I mean to make the most of it. And instinctively I know it's also a writing-in-longhand day. So I'm about to go down to the dock with my little black-and-white assistant, a pad of lined paper and one of those unique felt-tip pens I purchase only in Ireland (can't get them anywhere else.)

My first novels were all written in longhand. In order to have a semi-normal life and meet my contracted deadlines, eventually I learned to "think" onto a keyboard. My fingers now fly as quickly as my thoughts.

Some of my colleagues, most notably my friend Tess Gerritsen, do their first drafts in longhand.

I constantly shift back and forth, from modern technology to the old, depending on my mood and the nature of the scene I'm writing.

My goal is to finish at least a third of a chapter before Ruth and I have our afternoon walk. Maybe half. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Day at the Office

The working day began later than I intended...it was a chilly morning and I was reluctant to leave my warm covers.

The bay is nearly silent. Hardly any boats. Waterfowl are the predominant form of traffic. I espeically enjoyed hearing the chorus of three loons swimming together down near the point. I could see them, but they weren't close enough to make a good photo.

Here's my office on the hillside. I have a chair, a mug of tea, and a keyboard. And an assistant who excels in chewing sticks and taking naps in the warm sunshine.

The view from my office is illustrated in yesterday's post.

Working conditions are so ideal that I've finished the draft of my magazine article. After my assistant and I take our afternoon walk, I'll be diving into the current chapter of my manuscript.

And tonight, as my reward for making so much progress, I'll continue reading this 17th century historical novel...

Dark Angels by Karleen Koen is the prequel to Through a Glass Darkly--published twenty years ago!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

Freedom! (and other activities)

This afternoon we returned Gilbert Grape to his natural habitat, after 2 weeks and 1 day of indoor Lodge living.

Before setting him free, I put some tattoos on his forehead and back, using blue and black permanent markers. I want to be able to identify him among all the little chipmunks running around. They'll think he's really cool. He needs all the help he can get, because he's still extremely small. But his little paw works perfectly, including all the fingers. When we remember what bad shape he was in when I discovered him, we're amazed by his recovery and excellent health.

I offered him a "farewell" grape.

We carried his temporary home outside, to a place in the garden where we release rehabbed chipmunks. And we provided a birch stick as a ladder.




He wandered around, hiding beneath the lavender and the lily of the valley leaves. Then he went under the deck, where he probably felt more secure than out in the open.

Now and again I step outside to look for him. I've seen a tiny tail dart into the shadows under the deck, possibly his. I've tossed out some grapes, just in case he misses his favourite food. Those other chipmunks won't know what they are!

With my friend gone, and now Gilbert gone too, things are a lot less exciting around here.

Backtracking a bit, the Chap and I attended an annual black tie event on Saturday evening. I had the hardest time deciding what to wear--he looked so marvellous in his tux, I was under a lot of pressure. One year I wore red velvet, one year I wore dark blue satin, one year I wore black with sequins. I wore black again this time, something different paired with a new beaded jacket with white accents. Our colours--or lack of colours--were very compatible.

For dinner I had the salmon, which was nice but not as good as the salmon my friend made on Friday night.

Yesterday morning we drove way, way north to attend a Blessing of the Animals service. My friend the Vicar had told me a black bear was going to be there. The antique bell in the tower rang as we approached the lovely white church. It was a well-attended service, and all the dogs and cats were extremely well-behaved. After the Offertory, we all went outside the lovely church, and waiting for us in a big wire cage in the back of a red pickup was Victoria the Bear. She then received her blessing and was driven back to the animal park where she lives with many other bears just like her.

Then we all went back inside for the blessing of the other animals, those present and some in absentia.

Our church will have its animal blessing service next month, during the local Octoberfest.

The Chap and I will take Ruth to her obedience class tonight.

Tomorrow she and I are moving up to the Cottage on the Big Lake for a few days. I'm also taking my research materials, and manuscript, and cd's, and the usual accoutrements.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Friends for Life

I can't remember how we met--it was a very long time ago. We went to the same elementary school, but she was a year younger (and still is) so we weren't in the same class. But we got involved in the same activities at the local science museum and were in a youth theatre group and eventually ended up at the same private day school (yes, we were preppies but we didn't act like it). At some point, we became Best Friends. For one year, we attended the same college. (Still not in the same class, but in the same dorm.) Then she transferred, and I went off to grad school. We each moved away. Stuff happened. I published novels. She moved ahead in her chosen profession.

Over the years we've seen each other but not often. Now that she's moved back to the hometown with a super nice husband and a really important job and an adorable house, I can see her whenever we visit my parents. (Plus, her parents have moved down the street from mine.)

Last February we got together during my trip to the South. When we she told us she had a conference in Boston in September, it was the best of news, because that meant she could come stay with us at the Lodge.

And she did. That's why I haven't been blogging much this week.

As soon as she arrived here, Lola and Ruth recognised her as a Best Friend.

I admit, I was sort of jealous about the way they monopolised her, especially Ruth. The way the two of them snuggled on the sofa at night, I started to worry my friend would try and smuggle the wee dog out of the house in her luggage. I never saw such a love-fest!

Part of the fun of having her here was touring around New England--in gorgeous weather. On Thursday we spent the day in Maine. Our first stops were Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. Then we went to Ogunquit, were we saw some very intrepid boaters heading out of Perkins Cove. The wind was really blustery!

brave boaters in Ogunquit

Next we visited that wonderful beauty spot, Cape Neddick, for photo ops in front of the Nubble Point Lighthouse. It's hard to take a bad picture with a background like that!

Photo Op at Nubble Light

Some people were making their pictures the old-fashioned way.

Artist at work

Our final stop of the day was Newick's at Dover Point, where we enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner.

Yesterday, I drove my friend up to the Cottage on the Big Lake. The loon must have known how special she is, because he came to greet her. She took this picture of him with her fab new camera. (Photo credit: H. Hamilton)

The loon on the Big Lake by H.Hamilton

Last night we cooked dinner at home. She taught me a new way to cook salmon steaks--she modified her recipe, substituting maple syrup for honey, to give it that local flavour. It was the best salmon I've ever eaten....

Using her fab new camera, she took this most excellent pic of me and Ruth in my office. (Photo credit: H. Hamilton)

Author photo by H. Hamilton

Even though so much has happened in our lives, it's like time stood still. Sometimes we felt thirteen and fourteen again. And sometimes we didn't.

Years ago, whenever we had sleepovers at my house, we would make the most decadent, sinful fudge in the universe. Last night, I dragged out the old cookbook with that very same well-used recipe--on the page with all the chocolate smudges. And then I got out my candy thermometer....

We could make fudge again!

Today I found my old high school yearbooks to read what she'd written at the end of each school year. My favourite sentence is this one:

"Remember the time I spent two nights in a row...and making fudge...that was great fun, let's do it again this summer. At your house."

Although we didn't make the fudge this time, we've now broken the long-standing previous record for the longest sleepover at my house! In our guestroom we have the very same maplewood twin beds that were in my bedroom as a child and teenager. Meaning she was sleeping in the very same bed that she did back then.

The Chap and Ruth and Lola are missing her already...and so am I.

She'd better come back...next time, we're making fudge, and going for another longest sleepover record.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What I've Done, Where I've Been

I've changed Chip's name.

On Friday night, when the girls from Minneapolis were here for dinner, I was telling them how much the chipmunk enjoys eating green grapes. One of them--I think it was my sister-in-law--said I should call him Gilbert. Gilbert Grape. You know, like the movie, What's Eating Gilbert Grape?.

Now why didn't I think of that?

On Sunday we had a very enjoyable outdoor service and picnic at the church. At mid-afternoon, we drove up to the Cottage on the Big Lake.

relaxing on our dock

I got warm sitting on the dock. When the Chap reported that the water was almost 70 degrees, I decided to go in the lake.

not too cold!

I stayed in forever.

When the Minneapolis girls showed up, I came out. They've continued their efforts to spruce up the cottage (the master bath is awesome and unrecognisable), but also took some time out for canoeing and tennis.

While we sat chatting on the dock, our friend the loon stopped by.

our loitering loon

Then we all (except the loon) went down to the village for a Chinese dinner.

Yesterday was another tidying-up day here at the Lodge, with a quickie meeting in the city squeezed in, and an evening trip back into the city for Ruth's obedience class. We learned and practised "Sit-Stay," "Down," and "Come." She performed all three very well. This week's homework is going to be very easy, I think.

Today we had guests for lunch, bestselling author and wonderful friend Tess Gerritsen and her husband. They were passing through our territory as part of her current book tour, for The Mephisto Club (Vanish is out in paperback, too, and also selling like crazy!). During a previous book tour a few years ago she stopped by, but this was her husband's first time at the Lodge.

We had a lovely time together, as usual, and there was much clicking of cameras--as usual. They were introduced to Gilbert Grape, the chipmunk. Because my Key Lime pie obsession hasn't abated, our lunch guests were required to have some. The current variation is a home-made cracker-crumb crust (instead of a pre-made one from the supermarket.)

After our guests departed, I walked Ruth to the mailbox. We chatted with one of our nice neighbours, heading from her cottage here down to Massachusetts to vote in the primary election.

Another set of neighbours from Massachusetts have trapped a garden gnome. He's hanging in a basket from a tree limb.

a trapped garden gnome

I've got a couple of articles to crank out quickly this evening, while the Chap is away chairing a meeting. It's hard to concentrate, because I'm eagerly awaiting our next visitor. My best friend from high school arrives tomorrow--she had a conference in Boston--and will be with us for a few days. Her first visit to the Lodge!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sunshine & Seafood

This morning we drove down and over to Essex, Massachusetts for a clambake and lobster boil at Cogswell's Grant. It was sponsored by a hereditary and historical organisation my husband belongs to. The perfect day for such an event!

Crossing the Essex River.

The dining area under the marquee.

Our first course.

Our second course.

The property has been farmed since the 17th century, and the house is a museum of early American folk art and furnishings. For many years it was the summer home of noted collectors Bertram and Nina Little--whose sons were present and told many stories of their life in this amazing house and their days growing up on the farm.

Tomorrow, off to the Cottage on the Big Lake--after the church picnic. It's definitely a weekend for al fresco dining!

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Chip's recovery continues to amaze. His paw seems almost fully functional. He bears weight on it and uses it when eating.

I've begun introducing more wild foods to his diet and harvested a rose hip as a substitution for green grapes. He's been working on it, but doesn't eat it as enthusiastically as he does a grape.

Chip samples a rose hip

Yesterday I gathered a few beechnuts from the front yard. It's prime chipmunk territory and the nuts have been been picked over pretty well, no doubt by his brothers and sisters, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

It doesn't look to me like there's much inside a beechnut, but he absolutely loves them.

Chip eating a beechnut

Both pics above show his injured paw--looking good, working well! I had to look at the earliest photos I shot just to remind myself how awful it was.

Realising that I'm going to need a greater supply of beechnuts, I headed outside this morning to collect some. There I was in my blue bathrobe, crawling on my hands and knees under the tree canopy among all the litter of empty beechnuts, searching for intact nuts. Meanwhile, an adult chipmunk is sitting on a log--probably Chip's mum--shrieking at me. Either because I was stealing her food, or because she senses that I'm holding her baby hostage. I managed to gather a small handful of nuts. I broke off a chunk of wild mushroom, too--I've seen the chipmunks eating fungi sometimes.

As well as harvesting for my little friend, I've harvested for my own household. In recent weeks I dried several enormous bunches of oregano from my garden, and processed them for use over the winter. I've started on the basil as well--not so much progress there, as seen below.

I walked Ruth to the mailbox yesterday afternoon, using the new training collar and the new commands we've learnt. She did extremely well on a loose lead, which remained slack nearly the whole time--hardly any pulling. What a good learner! Jumping up, however, continues to be a challenge.

Three meetings in the city this afternoon, all connected and in succession. Hope to cram in a few errands.

We're having company tomorrow night for supper. For the first time Ruth will be meeting the only "aunt" she hasn't yet met, coming all the way from Minneapolis. I predict a love-fest!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Chipmunk Update & Ruth at School

How a rescued Chipmunk spends its day

Sleeping, mostly.

I'm calling our visitor Chip, it's easier to remember. Here are some snapshots of his indoor life:

Chip likes safflower seeds.

Chip likes safflower seeds

Chip loves green grapes. I don't have the heart to tell him they aren't growing wild in our New England forest.

Chip loves grapes

After a meal, Chip dives into the bed he burrowed for himself.

Chip dives into his bed

He sleeps there most of the day. And the night.

Chip sleeps a lot

He's such a baby, still has that baby chipmunk fluff. His lack of interest in acorns reminds me that it took Tarzan a long time to notice them or try to open one. I'd hoped to put Chip back outside fairly soon. But I worry that if he can't immediately relocate his family burrow, he'll be vulnerable to the local predators: owl, hawk or cat. He seems far too young and immature to fend for himself. I'm impressed by the way he uses his hand to brace all sorts of food, but the fingers are still curled under and immobile. That doesn't hamper his movements, however.

I'll continue to assess his progress on a daily basis, but I can't bear sending him out into the world too soon--as impatient as I am to reintroduce him to the wild.

Ruth's First Day of School

Last night after supper, the Chap and I drove Ruth into the city for our first Level 1 Obedience Class.

There are two households in the class--four owners altogether and a total of three dogs. The canines all have Border Collie heritage, all are rescue dogs, and all are mostly black and white. Ruth is the smallest. Kate is the biggest. Abby is the fluffiest.

Ruth was a bit bratty, she growled at Kate and bared her teeth when Kate tried to get friendly with me, and then with her. But everyone soon settled down.

Ruth was fitted for her training collar (white nylon). We learned about use of treats as rewards, and when to taper off. Then we got busy.

Ruth was the demo dog for the lesson on Not Jumping Up--it's really her only bad habit. We were taught how best to correct her and how we should behave when she does it, and then we practiced the techniques.

Next we did some walking on a loose lead, using the proper commands. The instructor says Ruth walks "like a Border Collie," meaning her head stays down a bit more than the other dogs'. Not a problem, it's just the way she is.

Last, we worked on "Sit" using hand signal and reward. Ruth aced it! She's a wonderful sitter already, so that was easy and she got a lot of praise.

It was a very good session. Ruth became increasingly comfortable with Kate and Abby, and their presence didn't break her focus when we worked.

As soon as we climbed into the car she fell asleep. Once we were home, she slept like a log on the couch beside me.

We've got some homework during the week. Today we've had three practice sessions, one on the octagon deck, one inside the house, one in the backyard. Ruth is responsive and I see progress already. The work on Not Jumping Up continued throughout the day! It's going to take a while to eradicate the habit.

Lola doesn't seem fussed about all the extra attention Ruth is getting. She's laid back, and watches us without getting in our way, which is wonderful.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I don't like to look back on what happened five years ago today. It's still too fresh. Perhaps because this morning, like that one, was cool and clear, with the bluest blue sky ever. The similarity was heartbreaking, and brought it all back with unbearable clarity: the shock, the horror, disbelief, tears. And loneliness most of all.

My husband had flown off the day before, on a business trip to the Midwest. He was trapped there all week, and eventually rented a car and drove home, across country.

I had nobody to cling to, except Lola and Shadow, and nobody else to talk to, except by phone.

My parents were in Scotland, far away from the devastation, but desperately worried about their children and extended family. I kept checking in with all the relatives--in Manhattan, in Washington, DC--and phoning the updates to Kintyre. Several people I knew were in Manhattan that day, in addition to my editors and agent. My friend Tess Gerritsen was on her national book tour, stuck out in Seattle. We emailed a lot.

After all the planes were grounded, there were no more contrails in the daytime sky, and no flickering airplane lights high, high among the stars at night.

I attended a church service on the night of the 12th. I had to force myself to leave the house, and was terrified driving home alone at night.

I worried about overseas travel, because we'd just booked flights to London and Paris.

What has changed since then? Our lifestyle is much the same, but in some essential way we mentally downsized. The Chap altered his job so he could focus on the part he liked best. I blended more nonfiction writing and even some film production into my usual fiction writing activities. Consequently, I cut down on the number of fiction writers' conferences I attended, keeping only my favourites--which happen to be the ones in New York. We began volunteering a lot more, with church, diocese, and nonprofits, and our lives are the richer for it. And we've got a lot more friends. I'm rather nervous when we stay on the uppermost floor of a tall hotel. I always know where exits are. I pay obsessive attention to my fellow travellers on airplanes, trains, and busses, whether at home or abroad. Lola is still here, my comforting companion on 9/11, but Shadow is gone and we now have Ruth.

What didn't change? Our hopes that peace and amity among the people of the world is attainable, despite all appearances to the contrary. We never stopped travelling. Since that awful day five years ago, I've been to France, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I've returned to the UK six times, and Ireland twice. The Chap still continues his TransAtlantic commuting as necessary.

I finally saw Ground Zero about eighteen months ago. I avoided it for years, and didn't go there deliberately. We were in that part of Lower Manhattan, and we wanted to see St. Paul's Church (the memorials and shrines inside are indescribable). The World Trade site is impossible to avoid. I kept my eyes averted as best I could, and absolutely hated the carnival atmosphere and all the rubber-neckers and people taking pictures. I don't blame them, I just didn't understand that desire.

Sometimes it seems like it all happened only yesterday. And sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago.

Chipmunk Update

Yesterday I successfully re-hydrated him, and was pleased to see him eat at intervals, though he slept a lot. This morning he has alternated between sleeping and activity. He's eaten grapes, raisins, safflower seeds, and bread crumbs, and is able to hold food with both claws--although the right one doesn't work. He drinks water from the dish now, on his own. His digestive system is working. I think the right arm is better than it was, the hand is still curled under but only slightly now. It's "fingers" still don't work, but I'm hoping for improvement. That doesn't prevent him from running, digging up leaves, and even jumping up to the top of the cage. At times today he has been extremely lively--cabin fever, I'm sure. He's made no attempt to eat an acorn yet, however.

Based on his progress so far, I can release him back to his outdoor habitat fairly soon, and without too much concern.

All his jumping about has alerted Ruth to his presence. She'll just have to deal with it. Given her chipmunk obsession, I should think she'd be pleased having one around.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rabbit Saves Chipmunk!

The Chap went up to the Cottage on the Big Lake after lunch. I stayed home at the Lodge on the Little Lake to begin tidying the guest quarters. As things turned out, quite a different guest room was put to use this afternoon.

While sipping afternoon tea and gazing out upon the world, I spotted the brown rabbit in our drive. He was there for a long while, nibbling the grasses. I watched him with my big binoculars, and I stepped out onto the deck to take his photo.

the rabbit who started it all

I kept my eye upon him until he hopped into the brush, out of view. Then I went to the kitchen to heat more water. Waiting for the kettle, I glanced out at the front garden, and behind the rock wall saw a tall stalk of evening primrose or something weedy moving. As if somebody was nibbling on it. Assuming it was the rabbit, I grabbed the camera and went outside, thinking I could sneak up on it and get a good close-up shot.

But when I came around the side of the garden, I saw that it wasn't a rabbit at all.

A baby chipmunk was entangled in the mesh of the deer barrier that protects my roses. In its frantic--and futile effort to get free, it was jiggling against the stalk.


I raced back into the house for a pair of scissors and my garden gloves--to protect myself from chipmunk teeth.

When I returned, the little thing looked up at me, pleading with me to rescue it.

please help me!

As it continued moving about, I carefully cut through the mesh, which had abraded the little legs. I waited for the chipmunk to move away, quickly, but it was obvious it's front leg was injured.

free at last

So, wanting to assess his condition more fully, I scooped him up and placed him in the old aquarium I've previously used for a (successful) baby chipmunk rehabilitation effort. And as I've done before, I placed the new habitat on the kitchen counter (too high up for the dogs to see it) and gave the wee one a little time to adjust.

the chipmunk guest room

Before long, I got out the trusty dropper, and offered some water. That kid was thirsty!

when did you last have some water?

So thirsty that I wondered how long it had been trapped like that.


Interest in food is an excellent sign. He tucked some safflower seeds into his mouth pouch.

inspecting the seeds

Then he started eating them--an even better sign. There was some difficulty in opening the seeds, due to the weak "arm." But at least he got a meal. I went out to gather some acorns...being able to open an acorn is crucial to survival in the wild.

He's napping now, curled in a ball, breathing normally.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out. I hope to release him soon. I wonder if he's a direct descendant of Tarzan, the baby chipmunk I raised by hand--her eyes hadn't even opened when I found her--and eventually released to the wild. The geography of the rescue is about right, but there's really no way to tell.

I never did see that rabbit again, who doesn't even know that he was the catalyst for the rescue!

I may name the chipmunk Tom Robinson, from To Kill a Mockingbird--the first literary character I could think of with a damaged arm. Only Tom didn't have a happy ending. So if anyone can think of a different namesake, please let me know.

Maybe Johnny Tremaine would be better.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Lucky Find

In my racing about on Tuesday, I stopped at the library to pick up a book from Inter-library loan. I expected it to have helpful information about the 17th century portrait painter who immortalised my heroine on canvas--at least three times that I'm aware of.

What I didn't expect to find was the image of a portrait I knew existed, from her household accounts, but had never--or so I thought--been reproduced. Imagine my glee! It shows her aged about 7, and is a dual portrait with her younger sister (whose parentage is highly suspect.) And I'm just as gleeful to see that the girls look absolutely nothing alike. Nor does the sister resemble either of their parents in the slightest.

She does, however, look quite like a gentleman who in 1680 paid frequent visits to their mother, very free with her favours both before and after her marriage. She gave birth to her second daughter in 1681. Sounds about right to me.

Here's my protagonist as a little girl:

And here's she is in her teen years.

Same artist. And, from the look of those sleeves, virtually the same costume! Styles of pseudo-classical drapery didn't change greatly through the years.

My recent activities kept me away from the manuscript, and I've fallen behind. Look forward to making better progress over the next four days.

Forgot to mention that Sunday, driving to church, I spotted the biggest flock of turkeys I've ever seen in my life. It had to be more than one flock, because there were several adult-sized birds mixed among the juveniles. I stopped the car to count, and know that their number exceeded two dozen. Some were marching up a steep driveway, but they had fanned out across the hillside.

The Chap, who had an early meeting at the church and went on his own that morning, also reported spotting a massive number of turkeys earlier than my sighting--but on a different part of the road. We can't work out whether we saw the same enormous flock, or whether two separate ones were on the move within an hour of one another.

This morning the furnace man came to inspect and clean our equipment. A reminder that someday this pleasant, spring-like weather will give way to chilly autumn temperatures. Here and there, the maple leaves are changing colour.

My rugosas have made masses of rose hips--is that a sign of a harsh winter ahead? I'm not supposed to harvest them till after the first frost, and whenever it arrives I hope I won't be too busy to pick the hips and make some jelly or jam. I've done it before, but it all depends on timing.

I'm waiting on a phone call from the editor of a glossy lifestyle magazine, to work out details of my assignment. I was out when she rang me up earlier in the week.

And I'm intermittently following the furor over Tony Blair, and tracking developments in the move to oust him as leader of the Labour Party. We were in Britain for the fall of Margaret Thatcher, and the final descent of John Major...rather sorry to miss this particular sideshow. Although there's no saying how long the stubborn Blair will hang on--another year, he hopes! Poor Mr. Brown, will he ever get his long-desired, endlessly-promised carrot on the stick?

Are my parents--in Scotland--paying attention to news of this political turmoil? Probably not. I like to think they're blissfully strolling through the heather and bird-watching and such. I remember how awfully far away London seems when you're on the Kintyre peninsula.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Weekend Wrap-up

I've been caught up in a whirl of activity since Friday, and the next two days will be moderately insane...

On Friday afternoon, Ruth accompanied me to the city. We met the instructor of the Level 1 obedience class we'll begin next Monday, and paid our registration deposit. We also met the instructor's two well-trained dogs. One of them is 16 years old!

Next it was off to the diocesan offices for a meeting. Because it was late on Friday of a holiday weekend, the building was almost deserted, except for the five of us. Six, counting my wee dog. Ruth was well-behaved and impressed her new friends, but at 4 p.m. she started thinking about supper and kept asking me if we could go home, please.

We were having one last quick trot across the grass before getting into the car when the Bishop drove into the parking lot. So Ruth met the Bishop. And the Bishop met Ruth.

I spent all of Saturday outdoors. I divided and mulched the strawberry bed, transplanted two more roses (a Charles de Mills and a Double Blush Burnet, both growing on their own roots), transplanted two peony bushes and a fringed bleeding heart.

That night we watched The Last Picture Show on DVD. I'd never really seen it--which I can't explain. I mean, I went to film school! It definitely lived up to its reputation.

Sunday the rain fell in buckets, luckily for all my transplants. After church I was tempted by the holiday sales to visit the mall, and went to Borders to use my 30% discount coupon. (Bought a great writing book I mean to blog on soon...) And my favourite garden centre was having a "Barn Sale," where I found lots of great items at amazing discounts. Including this compact stone statue of St. Fiacre, one of the patron saints of gardeners. A steal at only $10--orginally priced at $32.

He's now joined the collection of garden statuary. I've already got one saintly chap, the other patron saint of gardeners--St. Adelard. At least, I was told that's who he is, so that's what I call him.

They both hold a shovel, but Fiacre has a Bible, and Adelard a flower (some sort of primrose, I think.) Fiacre was Irish, and Adelard was French, a first cousin to Charlemagne. But for all I know, both of my statues represent St. Fiacre.

Yesterday wasn't a holiday in Britain, so the chap had actual work to do on one of his UK projects. I faffed about, tidying the house and messing about with potted plants and watching the latest crop of busy young chipmunks.

My almost ever-blooming azalea is doing it's thing already, about a month earlier than last year.

At one point, while Ruth was alone in the backyard, she let out one of her "Oh, no, it's a monster!" barks. I went down to investigate. She'd met a toad. He had puffed himself up defensively, all curled in a ball, and I think his immobility freaked her out. Soon he uncurled himself, and I took his photo.

Then, with a stick, I gently prodded him through a gap in the fence.

Ruth loves toads and frogs. At dusk and after dark, she plays with them in the grass. They leap away from her, and she bounds after them, leaping like a little frog herself. Fun to watch. I don't think she hurts them. I've not noticed any little carcasses lying about.

Lots of busy-ness ahead. A meeting today, dinner with my chap downtown, a meeting tonight, a meeting tomorrow morning, a guest for lunch...must dash to prepare for all this. And make a Key Lime pie!