"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, May 30, 2007

Ahhh



Moving through the not-yet-immaculate Lodge, I caught a whiff of a familiar, odd but pleasing scent. The very first passion flower. This is the day I'm moving my monster plant from the kitchen window area onto the screened porch, to join a much younger, recently purchased specimen.

One more thing to rejoice at, in addition to the Chap's imminent return, his sister's arrival, my first wisteria buds, dog bed covers that are well-and-truly laundered, freshly hoovered carpeting, and the omnipresence of those flashy Baltimore orioles.


Activities

Yesterday morning I groomed myself into a semblance of a state representative and headed to the city. First I dropped off a fun (I hope) birthday present for the Bishop.

Then I crossed the two blocks to the State House for my very first signing ceremony.

The bill I co-sponsored quite literally reached the Governor's desk this morning. As it's a high-profile one--designating the traffic circle/roundabout in my town a memorial to two police officers killed in the line of duty (a decade apart)--this was a high-profile event. In attendance: the Senate sponsor, 3 of the 4 House Sponsors, the parents of one fallen officer and the mother of the other, the police chiefs from my town and the state's largest city, 3 other Senators, a former Speaker of the House, assorted staff, and what looked like most of the State House press corps.

After the Governor's remarks, the Senator (primary sponsor) spoke. Then I spoke, very briefly. (My words were lifted--and slightly revised--from my speech to the House, the day it unanimously passed the bill.)

The ceremony was featured on the local evening news.



In case you can't tell, I'm the one standing to the left of our town's chief of police.

Afterwards I attended a House Continuing Education forum on Committees of Conference. By the time it was over, I was more knowledgeable about them, but absolutely terrified of ever being named to serve on one. Which seems highly unlikely.

Had a quickie doctor's appointment, then drove to a major discount retailer whose name begins with "Wal" and ends with "mart". I'd been told the garden centre had fantastic tomato plants, a highly accurate report. I picked up half a dozen. I also found, unexpectedly, the very toile fabric I dreamt about for upholstering the heirloom rocking chair on the porch. (Now I need to find an upholsterer....) I bought two six-packs of cider. And other stuff.

Nearly home, heading up the hilly part of our road, I spotted a furry brown marmot--also known as a groundhog or woodchuck--scurrying along the "driveway to nowhere". (It actually leads to a seasonal dwelling, but you'd never know.) I didn't have my camera, so you'll have to trust me: he was very cute, his entire body wiggled as he moved, and he must be very warm in that thick fur coat.

At the Lodge I discovered that three bare-root rose bushes had arrived in my absence. I soaked the roots in a tub overnight and will plant them out today. Cursing those wretched blackflies the entire time, I'm sure.

On a brief, buggy inspection this morning, I spotted the snowshoe hare. He's no longer snowy at all, but entirely brown.

And I found this.



May not look like much--yet--but these wisteria buds satisfy a 7-year wait. This vine has never bloomed. I won't say I'd entirely given up hope, but I've come close. Last year I drastically root-pruned it, I've always branch-pruned it according to all instructions I've read. I got nothing in return but vigorious, twining tendrils and abundant leaves.

But now, the promise of those dangling flowers has actually appeared. I hope that promise will be fulfilled in the fullness of time.




My sister-in-law arrives today from the Twin Cities. And the Chap returns. But probably not in that order.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Seasonal Harvests

Arrived back at the Lodge yesterday for the harvest. Of these....



It's the peak bloom time for my lily of the valley. I bought the original plants some years ago. They were sitting on the sidewalk outside a secondhand furniture shop in the village on the Big Lake. There was no "Hazard! Rampant Groundcover!" warning attached. But I knew exactly what I was doing when I bought three pots.

Yes, they spread. Rampantly. They now cover vast swathes of my acreage. I possess a lot of acres to spare, so I'm not fussed about it. Especially not at this time of year!

Last night I plucked flowers from a compact area about 3 x 3 feet, if that, until the mosquitoes sent me fleeing to the safety of the house.

I've got a large silver monteith and a small one that belonged to one of my grandmothers. (The very "grand" one.) Convenient for my formal arrangements in the upstairs sitting room.



But I also placed a couple of stems apiece into several humble yet quaint antique medicine bottles, neatly lined up on my kitchen windowsill.

Consequently, the Lodge smells heavenly.

Another 20 or 30 feet of blooming lily of the valley remains, some plants fully in bloom, others with unopened flowers. I shall have abundant bouquets for the forseeable future.

Good thing, as Jewel seems to appreciate them.



'Tis also the season for fiddleheads. Embryonic ferns. Forest food. (Confession: mine came from the supermarket.)

I had no hand in this other harvest, but I was the beneficiary.



As you can see, my preferred method of preparing fiddleheads is to sauté them. It's a very simple process. I wash them, snip the browned ends off, scrub them lightly with a mushroom brush, rinse them a few more times until loose bits stop coming off. I heat some olive oil in a skillet, toss them with shreds of garlic and a couple of pinches of salt till they're somewhere between crunchy and limp. (Hard to describe--I just know when they're ready.)

Tonight I matched them with an omelet and a glass of Chardonnay that I found in the fridge.



No idea where that wine came from or how it got there. We don't typically stock Chardonnay in the our cellars. Maybe it's leftover from a party?

Hard to characterise the flavour of fiddleheads. Some say the taste is similar to artichoke, or asparagus. Neither of those descriptions works for me. My palate considers them entirely unique.

After hermit living up at the Big Lake, I'm in desperate need of a makeover. In addition to memorising some words to speak (I've got an official, ceremonial duty in the near future) I need to upgrade my grooming. I'm afraid I resemble like a woman who's spent the better part of a week living in a secluded cottage. With dogs.

Nobody at the State House would recognise me.

But the Chap might. If we were here.

More on his whereabouts later.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Beer with a View

We walked, we napped (them), we read (me), we watched a re-run of Crufts 2007 on Animal Planet. Ruth and Jewel are avid dog show fans. Their pick was the flat-coated retriever, so I didn't have the heart to tell them that another, smaller dog won the championship. By Best in Show time, they were sound asleep. They still don't know the outcome.

At day's end, I treated myself to the giant bottle of Belgian beer I'd been saving for a special time.

I was first introduced to framboise in Brussels. It was an instant addiction. My life was never quite the same afterwards.

Ever since, the acquisition of raspberry beer has required regular crossings of the Québec border to raid SAQ. When in London, I've been known to clear the framboise shelf in the Selfridges wine/beer department and carry the stash back to my digs, to indulge with a bottle per evening, as my nightcap.

Then, wonder of wonders, a magical gourmet food and wine shop opened on Main Street, a block or so from the State Capitol.

Which is where I scored this ginormous bottle.



I used the beer glass most like the proper one for a lambic beer. In Belgium, each sort of beer has its special glassware.



Before quenching my need, I marvel at the rich, pink froth.



And then, over the course of the evening, I downed glass after glass, till it was gone.

For supper, I made a goat cheese, tomato and mushroom pizza.



It rained during the night, medium setting dwindling to low. The sound of raindrops hitting the bedroom roof is music to me.

After the rain stopped, in the wee hours--around 6 a.m.--two loons out in the bay called to one another.

Jewel heard them but didn't bark. By now, she's familiar with the background noises here.

A lovely bright morning on this day of remembering those lost in wars, of which there have been far, far too many--wars and losses.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday Serenity

Yesterday's breeze has fled. All morning the lake has been still, because most of the boaters seem to be sleeping in. I'm sorry to miss the Pentecost service at church, but for me this place is no less holy.

Last night's dinner:



Yes, raspberry crèpes. I know, I know--shameful, decadent, delicious! But it's a holiday weekend, and as usual when I'm here on my own I eat frivolously.

After-dinner show:



Because it's Sunday, the big white boat travels up and down our bay.

The morning excursion, a few minutes ago.



It repeats the journey in the afternoon.

Although the sky is slightly overcast and there's almost a chill in the air , we intend to do exactly as we did yesterday. Which, from my perspective, is as good as it gets.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Self Portrait with Beasts



A group portrait of the cottagers, made possible by a tripod and self-timer. This must suffice till the Chap's around to serve as official event photographer.

High-key and backlighting by Mother Nature.

Tucked into our cottage photo album is a 1992 photo of me sitting on the stair down to the dock, wearing the very same shirt as in the above. Lacking a scanner at this house, I cannot digitise it so you can decide which of us, the shirt or the wearer, has aged more gracefully over the last decade and a half.


Beside the Big Lake

Late yesterday, we headed to the dock to see the sun set.

Lola, Ruth and Jewel are ready for the show.



Jewel considers a swim.



While her chum romped in the 62 degree water, Ruth watches from her "safe place" beneath the blueberry bush.



Still life: Mountains at Sundown with Guinness. (Can you spot the bottle?)



Jewel admires the sunset.



The wind came up after dark, resulting in a breezy night but not a very cool one.

At 5:00 a.m., Jewel hears the loon. She barks at it. Then we all go back to sleep for a few more hours.

This morning, they had their breakfast in the kitchen, then we all went down to the dock where I ate mine (banana and cup of tea).

And gazed upon this view...



...as I listened to the first hour of Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR on the radio in the boathouse. I'm sure it was very informative and interesting, but I could hardly hear, the wind was pushing big waves against the rocks.

We'll probably have our walk around midday. Lola's legs have improved. I'll be careful about letting her walk beside the hardtop road where the ground is easier on her old, arthritic bones.

This afternoon, I need to write a book. Tonight, I'll be reading one.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Some Lakeside Views

At midmorning we arrived at the cottage. A very hot day--a thick veil of heat haze covers the mountains on the opposite side of our bay.

Settled in, had a leftover slice of last night's pizza for lunch, messed about on the computer.

At 3:00 I took Lola, Jewel, and Ruth for a long walk round the Point.

Setting out.



At Ruth's swimming beach, they all went into the water.



It was Jewel's first time in the lake. She sort of stood there, as Lola did. Ruth was the one who officially opened the swimming season.

We walked up the hill--it's shady, but goodness, we were hot.

Heading for home.



By the time we got back to the cottage, Lola was still managing to keep pace with the young ones--or would've done had she not been on the shorter lead--until the last few steps, when she went lame in her hind legs. She's not accustomed to walking on hardtop. This probably means no more long walks for her.

On encountering the next door neighbours, we introduced Jewel to them.

I had to cool off under the shower, on the theory that the lake is too cold. However, the next-door neighbours on the other side of me are in the water at this very moment--but their side is shallower than ours. I'd better check our thermometer. Maybe the temperature is within my range for "swimability".

I returned to the computer, with many deeply panting dogs napping at my feet.

The view from my immediate vicinity....

The wall to my right.



Straight through the window that my desk faces.



The neighbour woke to see a loon this morning. Hope I'm as lucky!

I'm also hopeful of a good, interesting sunset this evening. We'll be watching from the dock.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

In My Garden

Forewarned that the temperature may reach 90 degrees today, I stepped into my garden to immortalise the remaining spring flowers. Despite the black flies, I might add.




The heat, which will surely blast my pretty tulips, will also shorten the evil, fearsome reign of those biting, bloodsucking little buggers!

My bleeding heart plants are just now coming into their own. This one is beside the steps of the big deck.



Almost a week of rain made my roses very, very happy. The heritage varieties are leafing out like mad, and those that were killed to the ground (some, but not all of my David Austins and floribundas) are sending up strong, healthy new canes. Within a few weeks, I shall be able to reprise my "Rose of the Day" feature!

The scarlet runner beans--planted in a tub on the deck--have sprouted. They grow like Jack's beanstalk, and by the end of today will probably be several inches taller than they are this morning. Like magic!

I can assure you that the very newly published novel my cousin wrote is definitely living up to those intriguing pre-pub mentions from the blurb in the New York Times toEntertainment Weekly. And everything in between!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Day Tripping

This morning Jewel, Ruth and I hit the road, heading north.

After driving half-an-hour, we stopped at a favourite garden centre, where I purchased red flowers: petunias, lantanas, impatiens.

Passing through the village at the lower end of the Big Lake, I was travelling behind two Fish and Game trucks!



They were from the nearby hatchery, no doubt on their way to stock streams and/or rivers with fish.

Soon we arrived at the Cottage on the Big Lake. Ruth remembered that we have another house, and proudly showed Jewel around.



Ruth likes this picture a lot. She was standing nearer the camera, so she looks larger than Jewel instead of smaller!

They helped me plant my flowers (by not getting in my way!). We filled the planters round the house and a hanging basket for the dock.

We're headed to the waterside now. After a bout of indoor tidying up, I'm going to sit by the lake and read.

Very quiet here today. Things will change over the Memorial Day Weekend!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Buy This Book!

(If you like really scary stories...)


Tomorrow is publication day for my cousin Justin's debut novel.

Some family members have already read the book, many have not--I'm in the latter category.

The entire parental generation is presently in Europe--Italy, Scotland--but I'm sure they'll be celebrating in some fashion.

Last week there was another announcement about the movie rights.

Also last week, the new author was featured in this USA Today article.

Last night, reading my Vogue magazine, I found a mention of his novel in the book review section.

I plan to take it with me to the lake cottage later this week. Unless I chicken out and can't read it while Home Alone, in which case I'll read it here at the Lodge in the Chap's comforting presence.

This is a glorious bright day. After a week of rain, I'm not used to all this sunshine--but it's extremely welcome. Long may it last!

The Governor's office phoned this morning to inform me of the date/time/location for the signing ceremony of that high-profile bill I co-sponsored, honouring the two local police officers killed in the line of duty. Sounds as if there will be the usual media attention. When I gave my address the House of Representatives earlier this month, footage of me at the podium showed up on the early evening tv newscast.

The entire experience has been very emotional, and it escalates. I'm sure the bill signing and the dedication of the memorial (in a couple of weeks) will be difficult, especially for the bereaved families and law enforcement colleagues.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Whirlwind of Activity

On Friday, despite the frigid, damp air and pouring rain, I participated in a legislators' tour of county farms, organised by the County Farm Bureau. We departed from the County Offices downtown in a plush and very comfortable bus.

Our first stop was an alpaca and goat farm. I saw these very beasts last weekend at the Sheep & Wool Festival.



Next we arrived at a farm with tomatoes and cucumbers growing in the greenhouses and where we watched a sheep-shearing demonstration. After the shearing, the ewe gets a manicure!



As I returned to the bus, I snapped a tiny portion of the grand view for which the farm is named.



Around lunchtime we reached the massive farm supply store where we dined on NH grown beef (in the form of cheeseburgers) and NH made ice cream topped with NH grown frozen strawberries--and hot fudge from an unknown source. I purchased a small model of a Border Collie and one of a black bear. I also took a picture of these turkey poults.



We travelled to a dairy farm in a nearby town, to see the freestall barn and the calf-rearing area. It was a mixed herd of Jerseys and Holsteins.



Along the same road we stopped at farm featuring a mix of operations: equestrian, beef cattle, sheep, and timber.

As soon as we arrived, there was a demonstration by working stock dogs (imagine my glee!) by their very renowned trainer, whose assistant is pictured here with the dogs.



Do these cows realise that they are being bossed around by a much smaller creature?



Inside the enormous equestrian barn, we watched the dogs doing some close work with sheep and more cows, working in combination with riders on horseback. A High School Equestrian Team then showed us their maneuvres.

I made friends with all the horses. This one was wearing braids.



So that was Friday. You might think I'd spend the rest of the weekend resting up. But Saturday was the day of our diocesan Spring Event. A gathering of 325 people descended upon a nearby college campus for a day of worship and workshops about the Millennium Development Goals, and an awesome address by the US Ambassador to Angola. It was pouring rain, but that didn't dampen the participants' enthusisam. It was a wonderful day of fellowship!

We began the day with the U2charist. The words to the U2 songs (all of which the Chap and I knew already!) were projected onto the large screen at the front. In this photo of the processional, you can see the Bishop and the homilist (blue robe) and the screen.



As an "official" event photographer, I have a zillion photos.

Among the people gathered round the altar is the creator and originator of the U2charist, who joined us from York, Maine. Our homilist came from the Harvard Divinity School.



The offering was dedicated to the MDG's: $3300 was raised for Episcopal Relief and Development.

It's raining again today. A good day to stay indoors, and watch the orioles from the window.



There's a bit more variation in their return dates than for, say, the hummingbirds or the rose-breasted grosbeak. Normally they show up anytime from May 5th to 20th, and usually within an hour or so of my setting out an orange. This year, they arrived on the 17th, but this was after the orange had been out there for a couple of days.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Anniversary of Ruth & other matters

A year ago today, our sweet, lovely, loving Ruth--aka "The Love Dog"--came to live with us.

Such a kissy-kissy, huggy-huggy happy-happy day.

She seems really glad to be part of our family.



In fact, she's quite exhausted from all the joy.



For me, today was a combination of labour and of ceremony.

I zipped to the city this morning and spent several hours at the diocesan offices, stuffing 300+ folders for the participants at our Spring Event. It's coming up very soon, and will be an opportunity to attend my very first U2charist! I and my two co-workers stuffed cheerily through the morning and into the early afternoon. After they left, I wrapped up.

By then a documentary film crew was setting up to film a portion of a documentary featuring our Bishop. It was interesting, chatting with the producer/interviewer, who spoke frankly about the state of his profession (which used to be mine, too.) I would've loved to linger--the sight of film cameras, lightstands, and cables gets my juices running....

But, I headed across the street to the Legislative Office Building to take care of an errand.

Soon I was crossing another street to the Historical Society building for the unveiling of a former governor's portrait. (Our one and only female governor.) I joined what soon became a huge and happy crowd, saw quite a few other legislators, current and former senators, former governors as well as the incumbent.

Here's what was revealed by the fall of the curtain.



This picture of the picture doesn't half do it justice. She was there in the flesh, and both she and her portrait were completely gorgeous. I look forward to admiring the painting after it is placed somewhere in the Governor's chambers...where I expect to be in the near future, for the signing ceremony of a bill I co-sponsored.

After a quick nibble (baklava, yum! fig stuffed with smoked almond, double yum!) and a brief few words with the present Governor, I headed to the next ceremonial event: a groundbreaking.

The affordable housing nonprofit whose Board of Directors has the Chap for its Chairman was breaking ground on Phase Two of the residential development that was dedicated/opened a couple of months ago. Many of the same people were there, and the Chap's remarks were equally charming. Yet again, he acknowledged yours truly as his "favourite member of the House of Representatives." Well, he's my favourite constituent! And looked very distinguished in his ceremonial hard hat while plying the ceremonial shovel.

Then it was back to the Lodge to throw on some warm flannels (it's so cold and damp) and feed the beasts--if not in that order.

My commuting music this week has been Amy Winehouse.. I'm a Good Girl, but I love Bad Girl music. She's retro and hip all at the same time. I'm not sure I'd want to party with her...she sounds a little wild and woolly, I couldn't keep up...but I love singing along with her.

Today, however, I mixed it up with the Best of Oingo Boingo.

Did I mention that yesterday's House session ran till 6 p.m.? Could've been worse, I knew we were in trouble when the debate on the first bill of the day lasted for an entire hour! And late as it was when we were done, the majority leadership hosted a lovely reception for the freshmen, with decadent food and flower displays.

In the current events department, I'm devastated about Melinda Doolittle not making the final round of American Idol. I wondered if it might not turn out that way. She'll go on to far greater things, no doubt about it. But I wanted so much for her to win. Now, I simply don't care what happens, nor does the Chap. No more votes will be dialed in from the Lodge.

The Chap just came home with groceries and something for supper. Better go find out what it is! We haven't dined together for days. And I'm a bit weary of party food after living off it all week long!


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Field Trip (subtitle: Conquering Fear)

This morning my legislative committee had a work session at the Great Bay Estuarine Research Center at Sandy Point. It was raining throughout my drive, and I hoped our promised boat trip in the Great Bay wouldn't be cancelled.



We gathered in the newer building pictured above, where tables were set up and breakfast foods and coffee were waiting for us. The staff were very welcoming. They treated us to an informational power point presentation on all the wonderful work that happens--a collaborative effort. We heard from the Director of Marine Fisheries of the Fish and Game Department, the Manager of the Reserve, one of the F&G Law Enforcement Officers, and a Wildlife Biologist. Also present were a Marine Biologist and the Education Coordinator at the Center.

During our morning indoors, the sky cleared up and the sun even showed its face.

After lunch, we explored the trails and the boardwalks from which one can see the woodland vernal pools, the saltmarsh, and the waters of the Bay. Sample osprey nests and other educational objects are there.

And some birch bark wigwams. I liked this one best.



Here's the wigwam interior.



Father along the boardwalk. The big tree is a black gum, around 230 years old.



Its age was of great interest to me, because we have a larger one at the edge of our woods here at the Lodge. I've always wondered how old it might be, supposing it to be the oldest tree on our property. They aren't very common.

During our stroll I spotted a duck in the Bay, a warbler darting among the trees, and redwing blackbirds soaring over the reeds, chattering away.

Here's a view of the marsh. And the Great Bay beyond.



In the morning lecture on fisheries and fishing stocks, horseshoe crabs were mentioned. I can't help cringing at the thought of them...lingering fright and trauma from my youth on a Southern seashore. As a child the sight of them terrified me. For no particular reason, apart from the fact that they look creepy and dangerous.

Inside the building with all the educational exhibits, there was a "Hands In" saltwater pool filled with living creatures: winter and summer flounder, mussels, oysters, a sea squirt.

Oh, yes--and a male and female horseshoe crab.




The Education Coordinator asked if I wanted to hold one. I decided that at my age it's silly to harbour a childhood terror. And next thing I knew, I was cuddling a she-crab.



The result: I'm no longer afraid of horseshoe crabs.

We left Sandy Point and drove to the Great Bay Marina.



Where we boarded Endeavor.



We headed out, past these rocks covered with cormorants.



It was a wonderful excursion. The Fish and Game staffers were so informative, and our committee chairman has lived in the area all his life, and shared a lot of lore.

We met a sailboat.



And some sea kayakers.

We saw a couple of terns clinging to a buoy.

And, most thrilling of all, as we headed back to the marina we passed a seal! Or rather, he passed us. Well, we passed each other--he was headed in the opposite direction. Didn't attempt to photograph because I was occupied with viewing him through binoculars.

Returned to the Lodge in time to feed the dogs their supper. I then potted up two roses--lovely standard rose trees I scored in a two-for-one deal at Jackson and Perkins.

We had a simple supper after this long and busy day. Pizza.

I'm a bit weary, but exhilarated. What a Great Day on the Great Bay!

Believe it or not, I've got another field trip later in the week!