"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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Every Four Years

It's the girls' very first February 29th. All week they've been practicing...

...for today's big event.

Have a Leaping Great Day!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Calling Location Scouts

Anyone who's seen the film Dr. Zhivago remembers the scenes at that snow-encrusted dacha where Zhivago and Lara hang out for a while.

And like me, you probably stare in disbelief, and think to yourself, "It doesn't even seem real. That much snow just can't be possible."

Guess again. Because, after a fresh foot of snow over 24 hours, on top of the many feet of snow on the ground, I can tell you it is possible. Not desirable. But definitely possible.

View from the back door

view from the front door

Where can I buy a sleigh?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wedding Meme

We received around eight inches of heavy snow overnight. The snow mountains on our big deck are so scary neither dog wants to scale them.

To spare you more snow pictures, and because it fits the mushy mood I'm in this week, here are my answers to this wedding meme. Probably more appropriate for our anniversary, or Valentine's, but it's a fun trip down memory lane. For me, that is!

1. Where/how did you meet? We were in the same grad schoool program. I was the youngest grad student in our department, yet I was teaching Television Studio Production to undergrads who were my age if not older. He was the oldest grad student in our department, and the newest, when he sought me out to ask if he could audit my class so he could "get familiar with the equipment."

2. How long have you known each other? More than half my life.

3. How long after you met did you start dating? Many weeks. I couldn't date a "student." My class started at 7:50 AM, and by the time it ended I was panting for caffeine, not being a morning person. So he and I got into the habit of going for coffee at the Union right after class was over. But he never asked me on a date till after he left the class. When he showed up for the date, he tossed little pebbles at my dorm window to let me know he'd arrived. (This was pre-cellphone!) I thought that was cool.

4. How long did you date before getting engaged? Longer than a lot of couples do.

5. How long was your engagement? From the moment he put the diamond on my finger to the day he slipped on the band, about 5 months.

6. How long have you been married? 23 and half years.

7. What is your anniversary? October 6.

8. How many people came to your wedding reception? Around 200? I don't remember. It was in an ornate mansion, with large parlours and a dining room and a ballroom where we received guests in an informal way. I just remember there were lots of people, maybe more than at the church.

9. What kind of cake did you serve? Multi-tiered pound cake (his request) with cream filling between the layers and superb frosting. Instead of a groom's cake we also had a beautiful "golden" cake at a special table for my grandparents to cut--they were celebrating their 50th anniversary the following day.

10. Where was your wedding? In my family's church, the same parish at which I was christened and confirmed and sang in the junior choir.

11. What did you serve for the meal? No sit-down meal, a huge buffet laid out in the dining room of the mansion. I only peeked inside--it looked fabulous. The Chap never even saw it. When we departed from the scene, we were given bottles of champagne and a basket filled with the yummy party food take along. I remember the crab puffs and the wedding cake, and that's about it.

12. How many people were in your bridal party? Fourteen in all. Five bridesmaids, two junior maids. Five groomsmen, two junior groomsmen.

13. Are you still friends with them? Of course. Of my bridesmaids, I still regularly communicate--even if only at Christmas--with all but one. And I could definitely track her down through some of the others. Of the groomsmen, we see my brother when I go home, my husband's brother annually and his boyhood and college friend occasionally. We don't see the junior groomsmen at all but I know exactly where they are because they're my cousins.

14. Did your spouse cry during the wedding ceremony? Oh, no. He was smiling a lot. He thoroughly enjoyed himself.

15. Most special moment of your wedding day? The kiss. In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer (which my family chose for specific and personal reasons) there is not and has never been a "You may kiss the bride" instruction. So when all the declaring of man and wife was done the priest suddenly went silent as a signal that it was time. My groom took me in his arms and really, really kissed me. I mean really laid one on me. I was thrilled. People still talk about it.

16. Any funny moments? As we came down the aisle afterwards, he looked over at his parents and said, audibly, "Piece of cake!" People still talk about that, too.

17. Any big disasters? If there were, nobody ever told me.

18. Where did you honeymoon? We spent a little time in Salem/Danvers, MA, so I could see the Porter River and Porter Street and other important Porter territory.

We spent most of the honeymoon at the Cottage on the Big Lake. It was foliage season, my first, and magical. We went to Sandwich Fair. We day-tripped over to Boothbay Harbour, ME, for a fresh lobster dinner. We zipped into VT so I could say I'd been there. We toured the North Country as well, using a relative's condo in Waterville Valley as our base.

19. For how long? A long week. Eight or nine days.

20. If you were to do your wedding over, what would you change? Not a single thing.

21. What side of the bed do you sleep on? The right side, as I'm lying down. The left side, if facing the bed.

22. What size is your bed? Queen. It's a fourposter, but a reproduction not antique.

23. Greatest strength as a couple? More than one. Love, liking, laughter are the first that come to mind.

24. Greatest challenge as a couple? Keeping a straight face when we hear people say having a good marriage is "hard work." Seriously, I think we struggle more with individual challenges and are careful and considerate enough not to let them become divisive.

25. Who literally pays the bills? Both. He pays household bills. I pay my own bills.

26. What is your song? We have several. On our wedding night we slow-danced in the hotel room to Al Jarreau's "Teach Me Tonight," which happened to be playing on the Jazz Flavours radio show.

27. What did you dance your first dance to? The above. No dancing at our wedding reception, we had a chamber ensemble--harp, cello, violin.

28. Describe your wedding dress. Ivory satin with lace-edged neck, long sleeves and peplum. Same one my mother wore. A perfect fit. And I wore the Brussels lace veil (purchased in Brussels on my grandmother's Grand Tour) that my mother, aunt, cousin, and grandmother all wore before me.

29. What kind of flowers did you have at your wedding? The church altar was decorated with big bouquets of pink roses, shasta daisies, blue delphiniums, larkspur, greenery. I carried gardenias, because the Chap really likes them and so do I.

30. Are your wedding bands engraved? Initials and wedding date.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stewing & Housing

Well, I'm bummed. My mandolin instructor recommended that I sign up for the 6th Annual Mandolin Festival: March Mandolin Madness. Not because I'm so wonderful a player, but for inspiration and instruction. (There's a Beginner's track of workshops). But I rang them up too late, registration is full. Last week I put it off because I was so focussed on Lola, but apparently all places were already taken.

So I'll have to wait till next year, when maybe I won't be a "beginner"!

It's Stew Week here at the Lodge. That wasn't our plan on Sunday, when we started with the Beef Ragout--indescribably delicious. But we came home from church with a huge tub of Pea & Ham soup, specially cooked for the Chap by a fellow Vestry member. So we started on it last night. Tonight we're having Chili, our traditional (but not inevitable) snowstorm fare. Tomorrow, Pea & Ham Soup re-run. Thursday, Chili re-run in the form of Macho Nachos.

By Friday, we'll be ready to put down our spoons. Pizza!

Today's fantastic local public radio show was House Lust. I've written at length--in a magazine, probably here on the blog--and have repeatedly told the tale of our romance with the Lodge. Boy and Girl find dream house, Boy and Girl lose dream house, Boy and Girl get dream house back and move in and fill it with dogs and surround it with roses and live happy ever after.

Other people's houses and their relationships with their homes really fascinate me. English literature and Southern literature and New England literature--my greatest influences--are very much literature of place. Uncle Remus's cabin, Tara, The House of Seven Gables, Pemberley, Manderley, Walden. Houses and cottages and locale have played an important part in my own novels. My family have always been connected to the places from which we came, and reminisce endlessly. My parents are renovating their house at this very moment, have been for months.

As a couple, the Chap and I have occupied three houses.

When I first arrived at the cottage on the Big Lake, I hadn't been married 24 hours. It was dark and cold and I had no idea where I was, but the house welcomed and embraced me as a new-minted Porter. I loved it on sight.

Before the wedding we'd put a deposit on a Colorado house, near the foothills outside Denver. While we were honeymooning, we stopped in the Scottish Lion shop in North Conway. I was writing our new mailing address on the catalog request form when the saleslady asked, "Isn't that the place I just saw on television, where the kids are all getting cancer?"

Say what?

Turns out, it was exactly the place. The night before there was a segment on 60 Minutes or 20/20 all about the incidence of childhood cancers in our new neighbourhood. We didn't much care to become residents of a future Love Canal, so we rang our realtor that afternoon and backed out of the deal. Lost our deposit, but it was a small rice to pay for peace of mind.

We returned to Colorado--homeless. We quickly found a small two-bedroom condo that we could rent by the month. We stuffed our furniture into it, filling every space except the kitchen. We told my parents not to send the shipment of wedding gifts quite yet. And though we had no backyard for him, or any prospect of one, we promptly adopted a Siberian husky puppy. Surely, we thought, by the time Killian got big, we'd have a house and yard. Our memories of that first marital Thanksgiving consist of eating turkey surrounded by boxes stacked to the ceiling!

I devoted my life to finding a house and made a damn fine job of it, if I do say so myself. It was better than the one we walked away from, with an ever nicer foothills view and, for the area, a quite large backyard (big enough that a year later we acquired a second dog). We had two reliable fruit-bearing apple trees and a vast hedge of overgrown lilacs. The subdivision had been established long enough to seem mature. A block and a half from our door was a little pond with paths and walking trails and blue herons. (We don't thrive if we can't be near a body of water.)

During our decade-plus in the Rocky Mountain West, we summered and autumned on the Big Lake. Eventually we decided that we really belonged in New England, and not only because it simplified the Chap's commute to the UK and Europe. We spent a couple of years driving round any and all towns less then an hour from the cottage. And the airport.

When I first entered the Lodge, the real estate agent at my side, I knew instantly that it was The One. The Only One. So did the Chap, when he saw it.

For the better part of a year we yearned in vain. And then the planets aligned, and our dream came true.

Our house has its quirks. Some are ineradicable. We've made a few improvements. Added a room. And miles of bookshelves. Purchased the adjoining 10 acres to add to the 11 that came with it. Have never called in a decorator, never will--something the women of my family seem to do. I trust my own taste. And besides, I live on a dirt road in a forest. Some things are antithetical to my lifestyle and location. Even so, ours is one of the more impressive houses in the immediate area, but that wasn't our doing. We live quietly and don't need to impress anybody. When making changes, we're motivated by our own comfort and aren't easily lured into adding trendy luxuries.

Occasionally I enjoy watching home improvement programs like the ones mentioned on the radio show this morning, but I'm not obsessive about them. (Unlike food programs, many of which I can't resist.) In the UK I almost never miss Location, Location Location. It's all about house hunting, not house fixing. I can relate to house hunting. And I love happy endings. But for some reason, I don't tune into the US versions.

To set the present scene for you, before I hop up to construct the Stew of the Day.

I see the first (of many) snowflakes falling. I smell the tree rose that opened up yesterday. I watch the hairy woodpecker attack the suet. I hear the steady breathing of sleeping dogs. I listen to the headlines on NPR. Fresh dialogue for a scene revision takes shape in my mind. One of my mandolins is close at hand. The Chap is only a phone call away.

All is well at the Lodge.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Creative Economies

This morning I heard a terrific discussion on our public radio station about ways thriving arts and cultural enterprises can boost the local economy. And enrich the lives of local citizens. As a professional writer and very amateur musician whose friends are other writers, photographers, filmmakers, potters, painters, fiber artists, singers, and instrument players, this is an issue that interests me quite passionately. As a public official concerned about--and even responsible for--the economy of our state in general and the beleagured North Country in particular, I was riveted.

The success of the sorts of efforts being discussed require hard choices, careful planning, and lots of community support.

When the show concluded, I started to analyse my own creative economy--hard to resist for this homebound, self-absorbed, inwardly-focussed being who constantly wrestles with notions of material success and artistic fulfillment. I suspect the most crucial priorities shift in my career is much on my mind now because my birthday is looming. It's not even one of those milestone birthdays, but it's definitely a marker of the passage of time since I changed direction. And I'm acutely aware that in the coming weeks I'll be leaving my forest for New York, the center of publishing and the place where my professional fate and future has always been determined.

Hard Choices

When I ended one phase (the most lucrative so far) of my writing career to start another, it wasn't because I felt burnt out or stifled. But concern that it might happen was a catalyst. Looking back, I know that following my instinct was the right thing for me. I suppose it was risky in some ways. To be crass, it was a risk I could afford to take, in the financial sense, and couldn't afford not to, in the creative sense.

On the night before I turned forty, I lay awake for hours, tossing and turning in a bed in the Waldorf Hotel, mulling my options. I'd seen my agent. I'd talked with my editor. Did I want to continue on the familiar structured path I was following? Or could I strike out on a different path, leading to some uncertain destination?

Careful Planning

I have to admit, there wasn't much to speak of.

When you're accustomed to seeing your work in print on a regular basis, not seeing your books in bookstores is an unwelcome prospect. I didn't know then what I know now (having just finished doing my '07 taxes), that the sub rights sales and foreign editions would provide an income. This could be dumb luck. I tend to view it as an affirmation that I Did The Right Thing, my reward for following that mysterious path.

How could I possibly imagine, much less plan, all that has happened since that long, sleepless night in the Waldorf? By not being bound by a legal contract to deliver X book on X date at X number of words, I've been able to do much more than I could have envisioned. Raise happy, healthy dogs. Build a beautiful new town library. Serve my parish and diocese and the wider church. Get (unexpectedly!) elected to state office. Forge new friendships. Revive and sustain old ones. Grow roses. Travel, travel, travel. Explore a variety of writing projects, fiction and non-. And be a slightly less crazy companion to my husband than when I lived under constant deadlines and pressures.

Community Support

It's always been there, from when I was a dewy-eyed twenty-something newlywed making her first serious (and ultimately successful) attempts to get a novel published. The Chap's faith in me and his endless supply of emotional support and whatever else is required, makes everything possible. My family believes in me, too, and I'm grateful. But they aren't the ones who experience the horrors of sharing a writer's life and space.


How I love the processes of reinvention and revision! I'll always be a work in progress. I embrace the mysteries of my profession. As impossible as it was to predict what would happen when I made my early submissions to publishers, what lies in store for my unfinished novel is even more unpredictable. I tell myself that dwelling too much on marketplace issues is premature. Time enough for that sort of evaluation when I'm in New York. The important thing is crafting the necessary words, sentences, paragraphs, pages to tell the story that grabbed my heart and mind so many years ago, and never quite let go.

Whatever happens, I mean to integrate what was best about the most productive phases of my career with the best of this less productive but joyously fulfilling phase.

Because that would be my definition of a good and sustainable creative economy.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


The snow cover is so very deep on the open part of our property that we've had no deer sightings, or deer track sightings, for a couple of months. They seem to be keeping to the woodlands, where the depths aren't so great. I've been worried about how they're faring in this harsh season.

On Wednesday, as I was driving out to go to that dental society dinner, I spotted a pair of deer emerging from the forest along the road, not terribly far from the Lodge. So I knew they were on the move again.

This morning on my way to the newspaper box, I spotted hoofprints in one of our driveways.

Before we left for church, the Chap led me to one of the windows overlooking the back yard. It was crisscrossed all over with deer tracks!

Looks like they had a choreographer!

Today's Gospel reading (and sermon topic) was the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well, who'd had five husbands and was co-habiting with a sixth man when she meet Jesus. Here in snowbound New England, we imagined a hot, dry land where prophets get thirsty and women were responsible for heavy labour like drawing and carrying water.

After the service, a Girl Scout whose troop meets in our Undercroft was selling these:

The Chap purchased a box of Samoas and a box of Thin Mints to tide us over till the arrival of the more sizeable order he placed at his office.

When we got home, we found it was warm enough in the sunroom to sit there and read the Sunday paper.

Tonight we're dining on beef ragout, new recipe. The house smells delicious.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Scenic Saturday

This morning I made a friend of this blue jay by tossing bread, cracked corn and seed onto the fresh snow.

He was quickly joined by at least a dozen others.

I guestimate a fresh coating of about five inches. I was pleased to find it very light and dry and had an easy time clearing paths and shovelling steps. This most definitely takes the Lodge above the new winter snowfall record set in Concord, as we get more of it here. We've received something over 90 inches...so over 7.5 feet, according to my trusty calculator.

The girls thoroughly enjoyed scaling the snow piles--

Jewel on the summit of No-name Mountain in the morning...

...and Ruth atop Wolf Mountain this afternoon.

I spent my day doing housecleaning so intense it practically qualifies as Spring Cleaning. The reasons are several. Mostly I think it's a defence mechanism against this long, long winter. Also, a tidy Lodge is an antidote to cabin fever (a malady from which I rarely suffer!) Scrubbing walls and hoovering carpets and dusting surfaces and heaving bed linens into the washer are such positive, healing activities. Not to mention being good exercise.

I baked cookies, too, because it makes the house smell so nice and is a good way to welcome the Chap home. Used my favourite oatmeal/dried cranberry/chocolate chip recipe but got so caught up in substitutions--demerara sugar instead of white granulated--that I forgot to add the cup of flour. Instead of the chewy cookie I expected, I got a batch of flat, crispy wafers. They taste great. How I love a forgiving recipe!

After all their snow-romping and mountain-climbing, the girls are very restful as I tap away here on the dining room table.

Jewel gets up to check on Ruth, napping under my rosemary bush.

Our Chap is homeward bound. We'll all be very happy to see him again.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Nonfiction Meme

More snowfall. It started about 9 a.m., very light and dry. I had no difficulty getting to my noontime meeting to plan a diocesan event. How nice it was to think and talk about something that will take place in June, even as the snow outside the conference room window fell ever faster, in bigger flakes.

The driving was much worse as I navigated the several city blocks to my mandolin lesson.

The conditions were dreadful during my homeward drive. Four-lane highways were down to only two lanes, and the plows were nowhere to be seen. Happily, people seemed to be driving slowly and with caution--the average speed was about 40 mph on the motorway and 35 mph on Route 4 (with lots of backups due to volume, not accidents) and I was the only vehicle on my neighbourhood roads, where safety demanded 20 mph. or less. I was frightened by the hill, my memories of a couple of 360-degree spins are still so fresh, but first gear and some heavy praying helped me to overcome the effects of gravity and several inches accumulation!

The Chap had a good day down in Boston and was headed to a pub for dinner, having had quite the feast at midday, and a good French meal last night. I'm not sure what's on the menu for me...last night I made a quesadilla which turned out very well indeed. Tonight I'm less inspired and adventurous, but far hungrier because I had no lunch. It could be oatmeal or some other eccentric comfort food.

Melissa tagged me to do this meme, which I've seen all round the blogs:

What issues/topic interests you most--non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels?

I read loads of history and biography and memoirs for research on my novels, or for lectures I've given, but also read it for fun. Books about dogs are high on my list. I enjoy political books--cut my teeth on the serious stuff like Making of the President 1960 by Theodore H. White. I also like political satire, like Al Franken's books. Travel books--memoir, armchair, guidebooks. Gardening books, especially roses, perennials and herbs. Cookery books. How-to books about writing.

Would you like to review books concerning those?

Well, yes, I would. I can. I do. I've written reviews in nearly every category listed above. Sometimes the books are assigned for review, and sometimes they're my choice.

Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose.

I've mostly done it for pay. Although I'm not wholly averse to giving it away for free, I usually don't.

Would you recommend those to your friends and how?

With friends and relatives that I know are readers and who share my tastes, I'm happy to recommend books. Sometimes they are animal tales, e.g. The Good, Good Pig by Sy Montgomery, and Jon Katz's dog-centric works. I recall mentioning those books here on the blog. Many of the books I recommend are novels. I don't do a lot of personal, casual recommending, perhaps because I rarely assume others will like what I like. It seems presumptuous. Or is it because I'm so rarely around people I know so well that I'm comfortable talking books with them with any sort of detail?

Some kinds of book talk can be deeply intimate, at least for me. It's almost like discussing spirituality. Or my underwear. So very, very revealing.

recommending a book

If you have already done something like this, link it to your post.

Um, I checked the archives of the newspaper for which I've written most often, most recently. But the only book review still visible was for mystery novel, so it wasn't nonfic.

Missing question: Do you always finish the books you start?

If it's for a paid review, always, because I'm analysing the whole and not finishing is cheating and unfair to the reader of the review. If for pleasure, I almost always finish--but I'm a really, really fast reader, so if a book sucks I just skim to the end.

Very seldom do I throw a book against the wall in frustration and just give up. Maybe it's my optimism showing, but I tell myself that even the worst of reads will reveal something of value. Even if it's no more than a lesson in how not to write a book!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Day After

In some ways it's rather better. In others, worse.

--By staying in bed till 10 a.m., I caught up on my sleep.
--I needn't go anywhere at all today.
--I feel I could actually accomplish some writing that isn't blog-related.
--I managed to practice the mandolin, after a two-day gap.

--The new, surreal silence and stillness of mealtime. Huskies tend to be very vocal. During breakfast and dinner preparations, Lola danced about, letting out ear-splitting barks. "Feed me first!" she would shriek. "Feed me quickly! Hurry up! I want that bowl now--what's taking so long?" During this performance, the young ones would keep far, far away from her, Ruth under my dining room chair, Jewel on the landing. Now they come right up to the kitchen counter and sit politely, tails thumping expectantly.
--Ruth, not normally a wanderer, moves from room to room, seeking. Hurts to watch her do this.
--The footprints still embedded in Wolf Mountain, which I noticed this morning when I went out to feed the birds.
--This huge empty space on the Persian carpet here in my office. Never came in here yesterday so hadn't confronted it till now.

I'm extremely grateful for the kind condolences offered by my blog visitors, via the comments section and private emails. They are a greater comfort than I can adequately express.

Last night I attended a legislative dinner hosted by the state's dental society, having RSVP'd a couple of weeks ago. So despite being thoroughly gutted, red-eyed, and emotionally exhausted, I had to transform myself from a mess of mourning into a proper state rep, in nice clothes and make-up and name tag and all of that. Didn't much look forward to being thrust into a social situation, but it turned out okay.

I chauffeured my local legislator buddy and all along the way we could see the enormous moon rising up. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture, it was quite a sight--the prelude to the later eclipse. Our meal was excellent: beautifully cooked steak with baked potato and steamed veg, with apple crisp á la mode for pudding. Much appreciated by me, who had forgotten to eat all day. The program was informative and interesting. Our hosts were very pleasant people. I sat between a lobbyist and the Executive Director and enjoyed getting to know them.

I got home to find the Chap and the girls watching American Idol. I tried to concentrate, but occasionally heard myself making random comments like, "I'm so glad we had pasta over the weekend, it was her favourite meal." Or, "Remember how she stole the veal right off the counter on her second day at the Lodge?" I wasn't being maudlin...just airing fond memories as part of the process.

We all went outside around 10:30 to view the eclipse. It was happening right above our backyard, and was simply magical. We had a full, clear view of the reddish moon surrounded by Saturn and the Regulus star and others, all so bright and brilliant. I got a picture but the image wasn't crisp enough to show all the detail, so not worth posting here.

When we got cold, we came inside and discovered we could also watch from the bedroom window.

We headed back downstairs to finish up the newspapers and watch the tv news. At some point I fell asleep with Jewel nestled against my chest, Ruth stretched out along my legs.

After work today the Chap heads down to Boston, where tomorrow he attends the annual luncheon of a hereditary society to which he belongs. He'll probably do some museum-ing and perhaps see a friend before returning Saturday.

For me, there's an upside and a downside to his absence. If--when--I get a bit weepy, no danger of setting him off. But he won't be here to hold onto.

On this gorgeous day, the girls and I are surrounded by mounds of snow and ribbons of sheet ice (formerly known as driveways). Skating conditions on the little lake appear to be excellent. At the weekend I saw some of our neighbours out there.

Our octagon deck--the least-used of the three--is still covered, but the snow has pulled away from the sides and edges so it looks like a giant snow puff.

There's more snow in the forecast, expected tomorrow evening. This next round should take us over 90 inches.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Twenty-two Hours

Earlier this morning I sat on a fleecy blanket spread on the floor of our vet's exam room, caressing our Lola's silky black, still-warm head.

The Chap looked down at us and said in a choked voice, "This time yesterday morning, she jumped over Wolf Mountain." A few minutes later, kneeling beside us, he added, "It came so quickly, I just wasn't ready for this."

But Lola was.

Yesterday morning, a short time after she'd vaulted over Wolf Mountain and the Chap had departed for his office, I hared off to the State House complex for my final official duties before the legislative Winter Break. Our committee held a public hearing on search and rescue funding. Very public--a tv reporter and cameramen were there, along with Fish & Game Commissioners and several interested North Country legislators. Interest in the subject is especially high. Over the past two weekends, several parties of hikers have been lost in the mountains. Two were brought out in a dangerous airlift 8 days ago--only one survived. Somebody else had to be rescued after that. Two more somebodies were being looked for while the hearing was ongoing (and though we didn't know it at the time, were probably being air-flighted to their waiting families.

The hearing ended at 10:45. We adjourned, a subcommittee (to which I was appointed) briefly convened to discuss an amendment with the F&G department representatives. We voted and adjourned.

I headed for home.

On arrival, I noticed a troubling change in the dog who'd leaped Wolf Mountain a few short hours earlier. Lola was unsteady in her movements. Her legs were shaking from the effort of standing upright. She couldn't fully lift her head and could only turn it in on direction. Her neck and shoulders quivered with palsy. She panted heavily and constantly.

I tried to make her comfortable on her downstairs bed and settled on the sofa with my laptop and the younger dogs. I watched and worried. I rang the Chap to update him. I sighed and wept, knowing what we had to do. I was ready to do it. Not ready. I rang the Chap again around lunchtime, to let him know I was contacting our vet.

When I reported the new symptoms to her, we agreed that Lola no longer fit into that best-case scenario prognosis described to me 8 days previously. She offered to come to our house in the evening with her little black bag. "Not tonight. We need another night."

The Chap had a board meeting after work and I knew he wouldn't be home till at least 9 p.m. Certain that he needed to see Lola again and she needed to see him, I made an early morning appointment.

When he joined our vigil and I watched him lie on the floor beside her, stroking her, I knew my decision had been the best one. He fed her ice cream with his fingers. Her breathing was laboured, her sleeping was like a coma. I sometimes wondered if she'd survive the overnight hours.

We made this as normal a morning as possible--apart from my snipping bits of fur from the neck ruff and her amazing, floor-sweeping tail. Then we headed for the vet in separate cars. This day is almost identical to the one on which I brought Lola to live with us--it was this very week, in fact, in February. Cold air, blue sky, a white landscape.

Today, driving with her, I couldn't help remembering our first journey together. On that long ago day I was so besotted, I kept turning my head to look at her. I couldn't believe she was real. The most beautiful dog in the world nervously paced the back seat like a caged young wolf, not knowing that I was delivering her to the most caring home imaginable, two canine companions, and the man who would be her great love.

The husky I transported today was an aged replica of that same one. Except that she wasn't nervous at all. She embodied a mature dignity as she sat so calmly and quietly. I tried to model my demeanor on hers.

Everything that followed was as we wished for her. And us.

In all the years of marriage, the Chap and I have never been without a husky. Or a large-sized dog. We reminded ourselves of this, weeping and holding each other in the vet's car park before going our separate ways.

Her possessions--bowls, leashes, beds--are scattered throughout the Lodge and will remain there for a little while. On my way into the house, hunting my key, the leather collar I held in my other hand jiggled. That familiar chime of dog tags--unique to Lola--rang once more, faintly.

My heart is sore with missing her. My tears won't stop. I rejoice that she can be wholly at peace. I am relieved that we need no longer worry about what lies ahead. I look forward to someday placing her box of ashes in the ground beside Shadow's. They made a great team--same age, same size.

My current great team is sleeping at my feet. What they think and know is a mystery to me.

Nothing comforts me more than the certainty that after her remarkably healthy, happy fifteen years, our Lola's decline lasted a mere twenty-two hours. Difficult hours, yes, but now they are behind us.

Every happy, funny, crazy minute that preceded those last ones is her great legacy to us. We shall forever be grateful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rosy Outlook

This cheery sight greeted us this morning. With my head so full of roses and rose gardens, I'm delighted by this precursor of the growing season to come.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Snow Garden

Over the weekend I noticed this crop of snow stalagmites blooming outside a window.

They were carved by a drip from the rooftop far, far above.

Lots of dripping today. It's 52 degrees and rainy, and the entire Lodge is enveloped by evaporation fog. The Chap is enjoying his holiday. Dogs are slumbering all over the place. This morning I'm finishing my taxes--would've done it yesterday, but I decided to read a novel instead and am better for it. It's the second novel in a row set in the time of Charles I, thus out of the period about which I'm writing.

This afternoon, it's back to writing.

Ordered another two rose bushes. I believe that's an even dozen that will be added to the rose beds in springtime. Click-of-the-mouse retail therapy this weekend means hard and heavy labour in a couple of months' time, but it's all good. And good for me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday Festivities

A warm day and a little bit of melting made me hopeful that someday the snow might vanish, although we're now sunk in a deep freeze so any surface that got wet is now iced over. Sunshine is a nice addition, however.

After navigating through caverns and tunnels of snow to my mandolin lesson and back, I desperately needed retail therapy unavailable at the mall. Garden retail therapy. Soon as I was home, I sat down at the computer and headed straight to Pickering Nurseries in Ontario.

As an act of faith that spring, and summer, will someday come, I placed a massive order for rose bushes. I filled my shopping cart with maybe 8 or 9 plants: mostly antique varieties I don't have, a few David Austin English Roses that have been successful or which I've always wanted to grow, and a pretty pink climber. It's a very large order, probably excessive for someone who tends over 75 roses already. I scheduled a shipping date 2 weeks later than I normally do, just to be safe.

Rising from the computer, I got ready for our special night.

We attended a dinner party on the other side of town, and our guests of honour were the Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and her husband. About 18 or 19 people were there for a fantastic feast. The Chap and I supplied some of the wine and supplemented with cider and other beverages.

After dinner, the Speaker shared with the group the accomplishments the majority made during last year's session, and the challenges we face this year, with declining revenues and many commitments--to education costing and funding, retirement system support, relieving the hardships caused by the latest announced mill closure (and previous ones) in the North Country, and more. She urged the group to be supportive of the 4 incumbent representatives (we were all present) in this election year. After the mad week we had--especially Wednesday--it was great to be able to socialise in a relaxed setting.

Madam Speaker speaks

Here's evidence that we were a large group!


Today we're making decisions about our New York trip, not imminent but the planning is an antidote to cabin fever. And I'll be working out my plan to incorporate all those new rose bushes into existing--and already crammed--gardens. There's one section in my front garden that desperately needs re-imagining. I'm inspired to do a massive make-over, combining my recent purchases with reliable perennials, many of which I didn't have time to divide and re-plant last year. And there are areas around the big deck where I can find space to add Austin roses to the ones currently thriving.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Red Hearts, White World

This a.m. my valentine drove me down the hill to my car so I could travel to the Legislative Office Building to the Executive Session in my legislative committee. As we did yesterday, we had quorum issues and drafted a representative from another committee to join our deliberations. We started at 10, finished at 11:30.

Being one of two females on the committee had its advantages today--we and the committee secretary received a Valentine's gift bag and a red heart-shaped box with some chocolates (in my case, also know as "lunch").

Because my other two meetings--afternoon and evening--were cancelled, I had a free afternoon to shop for pressies and a card for my own dear valentine. Plus a card from the dogs. The category expansion in Valentine's and other special occasion cards is sometimes useful.

The only territory I've seen lately is along the route to and from the State House, and the downtown streets immediately adjacent. So the size of the mountains of plowed snow in big box store parking areas took me by surprise.

You could practically ski down this one. I believe it qualifies as an alp.

I wasn't the only one taking photos, either!

And then, of course, we have the ever-growing snow mountains at the Lodge. Here's the one beside the garage.

If we get any more snow, it will also be the one blocking the gargage. It's completely solid, hard as concrete.

This month is only half over, but the above is almost certain to be my choice for the February 2008 photo in the sidebar. I've been emailing all three photos to people living in places where it never/hardly ever snows.

I was supposed to be born today, but I wasn't. My mother rang me up to remind me of this fact and to wish the Chap and me a Happy Valentine's from her and the father. I was practically a 10-month baby. My brother, too.

We've always regarded this day as my pre-birthday, the one she wanted me to have. Only I was too stubborn. Or lazy. Or just not yet ready to face the world. As is often still the case!

Happy Valentine's Day!

The nature of my week has prevented me from shopping in stores. But it doesn't matter.

Because I'm giving a big bouquet of roses--from my own garden--to all my blog visitors.

You will find them here. Click on the individual images for a larger view with caption.

I hope they'll brighten your day. And infuse a bit of summer into this seemingly endless winter. (For those of us in the Northeastern US!)

Hugs and kisses!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Home Again

I'm safely back at the Lodge--miraculously.

The House session was utterly indescribable. With such low attendance, the margin required to pass anything was 2/3 of those present. After making some progress, we got bogged down with a contentious House Resolution that pitted the majority against the minority. On a normal day, it would've sailed through in accordance with the committee recommendation. But today, none of the many, many votes on the various committee or floor amendments or the bill, or motions to recommit or table or special order or _fill in the blank_ could get anywhere near that threshhold. We were at a complete and utter impasse until at last--after not even being able to adjourn or anything--we did pass a vote to refer for interim study, meaning it won't come back this session.

I can hardly wait to read the press accounts.

With much business to complete (a motion to special order remaining bills to a future session failed, the "third reading motion" also failed, unheard of) members began strategically and stealthily filtering out of the chamber. There came a quorum call--we'd fallen below the minimum to conduct business and the Speaker had to gavel us into recess.

The road flooding wasn't so bad on the way home. I almost made it, but the big hill was my downfall. Covered with rain-slicked ice. At I started up, I lost control and somehow managed to turn 360 degrees (without getting stuck in a snowbank) and get back down to the paved road. Turned around, tried again--same thing, a 360 spin. So I pulled over into a convenient lay-by created by the plow and abandoned my car.

I walked up through the rain, in the gathering darkness, up the slippery hill, and phoned the Chap to say I was on my way. It's the better part of a mile, up the hill and down and around the little lake. The tree branches were bending dangerously low, I stayed on the opposite side of the road from the power lines. The fallen hemlock branches made the air smell piney. That was the only pleasant aspect of the hike. As I reached the summit, a neighbour with 4WD came along and scooped me up and delivered me to the Lodge.

I've never been so glad to be warm and dry again. Never had such a trying day in the House--I do believe it was historic. It was the first day for our newest rep, who won a recent special election. I wonder if he'll ever come back!

Wednesday Weather

I'm most grateful for the kind sympathy extended towards Lola. Although her condition is progressive, it's not painful. She exhibits no signs of being impaired, visually or otherwise. Her companionship is a gift, her longevity and general health are remarkable. That does comfort us as we face this hard, harsh truth of loving and living with dogs.

"There's a ton of snow out there," the Chap reported very early this morning while I was still buried under the duvet. He was up and about, even though his office had a late opening. This gave him time to clear paths on the decks and some of the steps so he could retrieve the paper. (Our delivery person is amazing!) Our plow guy couldn't even plow the whole of the drive on the garage side--no place to put the snow without blocking the doors--so the Chap had to do part of it with the snow plow.

By the time I went outside to clear the back deck and the steps down to the dog yard, the wet snow has given way to sleet and icy rain, a real mess.

The bigger of the two snow mountains on our larger deck is now taller than the top rail. I've not been keeping up with snow totals, which are record-setting, but what you see here represents a considerable portion of the total accumulation for the season (it's in the 70 inches range.)

With winter raging, I'm especially thankful for my Valentine's gift: a pot of tête-a-tête narcissus.

Yesterday I was in town. I dropped off some prints of the Governor's day at the sled dog races at his office, searched the third floor of the LOB for the Chap. (He was monitoring a hearing Then had back to back to back "churchy" meetings. Our diocesan mission resources committee completed its process of awarding grants to congregations seeking financial support. Then I huddled with some canons to discuss tomorrow's Council meeting, which I've cancelled because of a funeral in the North Country--we had a tragically sudden death in our diocesan family. Then I hastened to Taco Bell for a fast meal with the Chap, and we made our way to the convocation meeting. The big agenda items was elections, and we finished early, enabling people to get home before the storm. And to watch the last night of the WKC dog show! And the Potomac Primary returns!

Today's session of the House was postponed till this afternoon. So I slogged through the mush to the Capitol, where I'm live blogging from Seat 3-93. I'm also still trying to recover my wrecked composure from the terrifying drive. The road leading to my road was nearly flooded and no doubt will be by the time I'm headed home. If I make it that far--the water came up over my tires and into my engine a few yards from the Legislative parking garage. Miraculously, I did not stall out. I won't be going in that direction when I leave.

There was almost no traffic other than plows, not even on the motorway. All the schools and the entire state is closed for business today.

But here I am. To do the people's business. As much as we can do with so few members present.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Husky love

It's the sort of frigid, blustery day that made me reluctant to leave the Lodge. But this morning my growing concern about Lola sent us both out into the 10-degree (with windchill it's worse), windy world to the vet.

There's good news and not-so-good news and terrible news. Her ailment is confined to the upper right portion of her face. Good: it's neurological and symptomatic of her advanced age and thus apparently not life-threatening. Not so good: It's incurable, it will increasingly impair her vision. Terrible: It's an indicator of an inevitable decline in an otherwise amazingly vigorous 15-year-old husky.

When they led her away to have her toenails clipped, I sat alone in the examining room.

I was acutely aware of confronting the same stainless steel table on which our "firstborn" Killian breathed his last as an old man, after we were certain life no longer held any joy for him. The same cold surface on which sweet Daisy's x-rays had been spread to show me her spinal tumour (so malignant, as it turned out, she had to be euthanised on an operating table). The very room in which darling Shadow was pronounced healthy a mere three weeks before her secretive cancer manifested itself with terrible suddenness (while we were in the UK) and resulted in her being put down before our return.

Ours is a rural vet, there are only two exam rooms. Why did I have to be in that one, where the Bad Stuff happens? It raised all sorts of troubling premonitions about Lola.

I tried to focus on all the Good Stuff. It's also a room in which my dogs have been well-tended, treated fondly, fed treats, received hugs and pats (after the jabs).

The roads were very treacherous, slick from all the snow being blown from the mountains of snow left by the plows. When we were safely home again, Ruth and Jewel greeted Lola with great joy and excitement. With her usual superiour air, she brushed past them. I watched my big, still-beautiful, only somewhat arthritic husky lumber down the icy steps to the white-covered yard. She lifted her head to sniff the frigid air. Thankful to be home. Bursting with life.

She lives in the here and now. No unsettling exam room memories. And no premonitions at all.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sled Dog Videos

Videos of the sled dog racing. (Yes, more dog videos. But not of my dogs!)

Apologies for the low quality. Not the best of filming conditions.

Video 1: The Youngest Musher. It's a toddler. And the easily distracted dog isn't very old, either!

Video 2: Lining Up For the Lyman Memorial Open Class. These dogs can't wait to run!

Video 3: The Longest Sled Dog Team I've Ever Seen. Eight pairs! Sixteen dogs! Sixty-four paws! (The team after it is a more usual size.)

"Ain't no mushing happening here at the Lodge.
We're non-working dogs"

As previously mentioned, there's a World Sled Dog Championship Photo Album

World Sled Dog Championships

Undeterred by threats of snow squalls (which did materialise) immediately after church we drove across severely frost-heaved roads to the 79th Annual World Sled Dog Championships. This is a favourite winter event, in recent years unfortunately cancelled or delayed due to lack of snow. Or global warming, if you prefer.

It's a must for lovers and owners of Northern breeds. Killian, our late great red Siberian Husky accompanied us to sled races when we lived in Colorado. Now we've got Lola, an Alaskan Husky--the most common racing breed in these parts. Most of the dogs we saw today were Alaskans, or very mixed breeds. Oops, that's redundant...by definition, Alaskan huskies have mixed-breed ancestry.

We were there in time to watch the Junior One-Dog Races--some of those juniors were very young, more like toddlers.

There was a lull in the racing when the Governor and his wife arrived. They each took a turn driving a sled dog team, and appeared to enjoy themselves very much.

Here's the Governor with Miss Lakes Region.

The snow was really pounding down, and sometimes Miss Lakes would pull her hood up over her crown.

After they finished their ride, I went over and said hello to Gov. Lynch and Dr. Lynch. The Chap and I wandered round watching dogs being hitched up for the Lyman Memorial Open Class (teams of any size) and so did the Gov and Mrs. Dr. Gov.

Not all the Northern breeds were mushing today. Some were there to see and be seen--very classy spectators.

Here's a not-so-classy spectator.

"Don't take my picture unless there's a husky in the frame."

Eventually the Lynches headed to a different part of the Big Lake, where the Annual Ice Fishing Derby was taking place.

We had planned on a look-in at the cottage but felt we'd been snowed upon quite long enough. So we returned to the Lodge.

To see loads more fabulous pics of sled dogs, the Gov and his wife, more sled dogs, fun in the snow, etc. (with captions), go to the 2008 World Sled Dog Championship Photo Album I uploaded to Facebook. (Membership not required for viewing)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saturday is bringing more snow...Sunday, too....

"I'm starting to maybe get tired of snow," I admitted last night, moments after Mr. Weatherman described the next chapter of The Whitening: A Horror Tale of New England Winter.

The Chap muttered something that sounded like, "What does it take to push you over the edge?" before using several bad words that I can no longer say because I gave them up for Lent.

Between now and tomorrow evening, we're told to expect another 6-to-9 inches, depending which weather map--Manchester or Boston--you're viewing.

Yes, I still love snow. I don't mind watching it drift down from the sky. The difficulty lies in where to put it once it hits the ground. We've got 21 acres here, but 20 are tree-covered. Our snow plow man (who's getting very rich) is running out of room at the end of our drives to push the snow.

This morning when I went out to feed the birds, I found lots of tracks criss-crossing the snowscape. Including these, near the old lobster trap.

Snow lobsters?

More likely the snowshoe hare. Or a very large grey squirrel.

It's only February. I don't like to remember that March is typically the "snowiest" month....

Our girls are enjoying the white stuff. Especially Ruth.

"Standing on Wolf Mountain, I don't feel so little."

"What's the altitude way up here on No-Name Mountain?"

"I got up, surely I can get down."

Jewel looks forward to another day of playing outside.

Exciting plans for tomorrow. We're determined not to let the weather slow us down.

Before signing off--greetings and gratitude to all my new Facebook friends!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Stuck In a rut. Facing the Book. Booking the Face.

Another day of confinement, here at the Lodge where the snow falls intermittently and the canines have contracted narcolepsy. Perhaps it's the ideal curl-up-nose-to-tail-and-snooze weather making the young ones so sleepy. Lola has an excuse--at 15 years, her life is one long nap interspersed with meals.

Readin', writin', 'rithmetic (balanced my checkbook) doesn't make for interesting blogging. Good thing I've got an announcement. Or, as we say in the novelista business, A Big Reveal.

I'm now registered with Facebook.

Didn't see that one coming, did you? (Well, some of you actually did, because I've friended you already.)

It all started in January so I'm very new to this. Frankly, I haven't exactly worked out how it's supposed to fit into my extremely active and fulfilling online lifestyle. I mainly connect with other people via their blogs, so do I really need a social networking site? I haven't any books to promote at the moment...except to residents of Bratislava or Vladivostock.

But I'm a joiner. So join I did.

UK acquaintances have been F'booking for a while now. Not long after I signed up a real life friend friended me. So I started searching for more. Turns out that many people I know in real life--lots of writers--are on F'book. Bloggers, too. And at least one relative.

It also turns out that I'm terribly shy about friending people. Therefore I'm not allowed to have an inferiority complex about my tiny collection of friends. It's my own fault.

Consider this my global plea to all my blog visitors: If you're on Facebook, too, reach out! Or I will. (When I get over being so shy, that is.)

You can also tell me why and how you use Facebook, MySpace, whatever. Or whether you do use it. I really want to know!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Trapped on Wednesday, Too

basement window in Legislative Office Building

Okay, so the incarcerated/trapped theme is somewhat outworn this week, but I'm sticking with it one more day....

Today I was "trapped" in Representatives Hall, where we legislated like hell from 10 a.m. till 4:40. Tomorrow is the deadline for reporting bills going to a second committee. Because icky weather is expected, we really didn't want to come back for a second session this week. We were sufficiently motivated to make it through Part 1 of our calendar (the deadline bills) and a portion of Part 2. We special ordered the unfinished Part 2 bills to next week.

Melissa, I thought of you--and your EZ Pass woes of last year--when voting on HB 1604-FN. Our Dept. of Transportation estimates 33,000 EZ Pass violations each month...you can screw up twice in 30 days without penalty. But three times, and you suffer the consequences. There's no reference to an appeals process in this particular piece of legislation, as far as I can tell.

At lunch break I did email on my laptop on the deserted 3rd floor of the LOB. Taking 4 flights of stairs (from the basement to the top) up and down is my midday exercise.

During the afternoon debates I was attentive yet still managed to scribble a portion of my scene-in-progress. As the hour grew later I got giggly. The bill that would've formed a study committee to see if NH wants to change to the Atlantic Time Zone cracked me up. (And my seat mates and the row behind me.) Not so much on its merits, or lack thereof, but points made during the debate were occasionally frivolous. And late in the day, I'm susceptible to any sort of humour.

I can't imagine driving from Portsmouth to Kittery and entering a different time zone. I know, I know--Indiana. Not a convincing argument!

A parliamentary inquiry (PI) type of question popped into my mind near the conclusion. It went unasked but I'll share it with you.

"Would the honourable gentleman believe that I spent 11 years living in the Mountain Time Zone, and would he also believe that I moved to the Eastern Time Zone where all my immediate relatives reside partly to stop my mother, father and brother asking me 'What time is it there?' every time they rang me up, which was driving me crazy?"

I escaped the Hall soon as we were released, raced to the garage, and was on the motorway before the State employees merged onto it from the state complex at Hazen Drive. It was a speedy commute and I was singing along with Dar Williams and Ani DiFranco--Comfortably Numb--at the top of my voice.

I really should be at church tonight, kneeling and reciting the Ash Wednesday Litany with my fellow parishioners. I think ours is the only church in the village that didn't cancel services (because of impending weather.) I don't have the energy. Our miserable country road is such a mess after a day of pouring rain that has nowhere to run off due to the snow piles that I worry about getting out and not getting back home.

Some might say that I've already done my penance by being confined in the State House so many hours. Others would say that because of the way I voted, I ought to do penance.

If the weatherman is correct (for a change) our snow plow mountain will grow tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Trapped on Tuesday

Maybe "trapped" isn't entirely accurate. I could escape the Lodge if I had to. Fortunately I don't.

Mr. Weatherman's map showed that our area could expect "a trace to an inch" of snow by morning. We were gobsmacked to find a good half-foot when we arose. In recent days there has been a fair amount of melting, but now it's a case of one step forward, two back. The Chap had to be at the LOB for some Senate hearings and headed downtown. He observed--and a commuter friend confirmed--that it was a miserable drive. The radio reported people sliding all over the interstate and other roads, many accidents.

The wall created by the snow plow continues to rise, and is now a towering eight, maybe ten feet high. Possibly more. Difficult to measure.

One day I'll pose in front of it. I'm in no rush, there's plenty of time before spring. Barring massive heat waves, it'll probably be here on Memorial Day.

My afternoon meeting was cancelled. Meaning I could stay home all day, dipping into the artichoke/cheese dip we have leftover from Sunday. (If you're wondering, no, we didn't really "watch" The Game. The startling loss was Not Our Fault.) This would be a great curl-up-and-read-somebody-else's-book-day. But I've been a good girl and have been writing my own. Rather, re-writing. I attacked the very first paragraph, for the zillionth time, and after knocking it into shape re-re-re-re-re-edited the entire first chapter before carrying on at the place I left off.

I take occasional breaks to play with my new treasure, which arrived yesterday.

As it's Super-Duper Tuesday at long last (Was the NH Primary only a month ago? Seems like years!), I predict a very, very late night of watching election returns, even though I have to be up early in the morning. I also predict the Chap will beat me to bed. He's not as obsessive about these things as I can be.

Monday, February 04, 2008


I had to go to jail today.

I wasn't apprehended for exceeding the lawful limit of doggy photo/video blogposts. Not yet, anyway.

My brief incarceration in the county lock-up was all part of my legislative service. State Reps are also members of their county delegation and as such are assigned to subcommittees who review assigned departmental portions of the county budget. I serve on the Corrections Subcommittee, and today we met--at and in the jail--to review the proposed '08 budget. There were 7 of us reps, plus the Superintentant, Director of Operations (a constituent of mine), and the County Administrator.

Last year we met twice for budget discussions but today we worked through till noon-thirty so we wouldn't have to come back. Although nobody pointed it out, it does save the county some $$$ because we'll only have one day of per diem instead of two!

As we were departing, our subcommittee chair gave voice to our shared thoughts: "I'm always relieved when I step out into the sunshine, and hear that metal door slam behind me."

No kidding. It's a wonderful facility--new, state of the art, environmentally green. And like all such places, the population behind bars is spiraling. I'm glad I don't have to stay there for longer than a few hours at a time.

I'm always amused by the highway signage posted at the approach to our county complex, from each direction:

I didn't notice anybody thumbing for a ride. If I had done, I definitely wouldn't have stopped for them!

When I took the photo, the sun was in a really bad place but now that I see the result I rather like the washed-out, surreal quality. Looks like I tweaked the image but I didn't.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Big Game: Puppy Bowl IV

For residents of the Lodge, the Big Game could only be found on Animal Planet. The two young dogs were glued to the telly for the broadcast of Puppy Bowl IV.

Ruth was riveted. Jewel coached (noisily) from the sofa.

Bingo was our favourite pup, because of a perceived resemblance to Jewel. So that's how we voted for the Most Valuable Puppy Poll. But Bingo didn't win.

I know, I know. Yet another dog video. Sorry. It's just that my dogs watching other dogs on tv cracks me up.

One of these weekends I'll escape the confines of the Lodge on a Sunday, and shoot more interesting footage. Promise.

The Deliciousness. The Cuteness.

Our town, and several neighbouring ones, held its deliberative session (or traditional town meeting) yesterday. We arrived at the elementary school a little before 9 a.m. and the "regulars" drifted in. Only a few dozen, not the few hundred who attended back when we had the traditional meeting. The purpose was to review and/or amend warrant articles that will appear on the official ballot of the March election. The discussion--and amending--got really bogged down with an article about continuing the current Highway Department lease of a front end loader, or whether the Selectmen should be authorised to enter into a different lease on a different model. We were breaking in a new town moderator, too.

We had to leave at noon-thirty for my make-up mandolin lesson. On Friday afternoon when backing the car out of the garage, I slid on the thick ice coating of the drive and ended up with a wheel stuck in a snow bank along the side. I spent about 15 minutes trying to dig out to no avail. The frozen and re-frozen snowpack was very hard to deal with. Realising it was a losing battle, I phoned my instructor and re-scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. (When the Chap got home from the office, all he did was deliver one strong shove to free the vehicle.)

After my lesson, we reckoned the town meeting was finished. In fact, according to today's newspaper, it ended at about 2 p.m.--after 5 hours of deliberations! We had a late lunch at the new Newick's. When a theme restaurant folded last year after a brief tenure, the popular seacoast seafood place settled in. The view can't match the one of docks and Great Bay at the Dover Point location, where we often go, but the food is just as tasty. And they were clever enough to hang a fantastic photographic mural of the familiar Great Bay view (at sunset) in the new place! Coincidentally, there's a Long John Silver's right next door, but it's not like they compete for customers. One is fast seafood, the other is a sit-down restaurant with a bar and the grooviest, biggest, deepest see-through plexiglas lobster tank we ever saw.

We wanted old favourites and to try something new. So the Chap ordered the whole fried clams, onion rings, and clam chowder. I got fish chowder (always) and the special, a seafood shepherd's pie--fish, shrimp, and tiny scallops in a bisque under a whipped potato covering sprinkled with paprika. Coleslaw on the side.

Totally yum.

Last night I watched a Eukanuba Dog Show on Animal Planet (sound off) while the dogs slept and the Chap did email, and simultaneously checked out videos of mandolin players and old favourite music videos I never see any more on my laptop (with headphones).

Last Sunday Jewel was the blog hog, jumping onto my lap while I was at this keyboard and getting her picture posted here as a result. So today I'm celebrating Ruth, aka Our Wee Dog. An adorable combination of Border collie and possibly some sort of terrier, she weighs 29 pounds. She makes me laugh almost every time I look at her. She so little, and so cute, and so sweet, and her feet are so tiny. "Pig's trotters," we call them. Until she arrived in our home, we were Big Dog People.

Despite being a little bit shy (everybody is so much bigger) she's friendly towards all people and other dogs. Jewel mostly stays glued to me, but Ruth is very outgoing. She has bucketloads of charm and personality. She likes to cuddle. She strives to keep the pack--canine and human--together at all times. She's our most obedient dog, because she truly wants to please.

She can be rather possessive of toys and has no trouble taking them from Jewel, who though very smart herself, is victimised by Ruth's sneaky and manipulative methods of theft. Or else she doesn't care. In playfighting they are fairly evenly matched in strength, despite a difference in size and weight class, but Ruth always wants to dominate. With all humans she's totally and cheerfully submissive--she spends a lot of time belly-up, wiggling with joy.

She loves Lola, who most of the time is a mother figure, and like a puppy (or any young canid) licks big husky's face and mouth. Sometimes she asserts herself by growling if she fears the big dog covets her favourite place on the sofa or under my chair. Lola's jumping-up-on-the-sofa days are long past, and she's too large to fit under any of our chairs. Ruth doesn't seem to realise it.

She spends her evenings curled up on her cushion at the opposite end of the sofa from where I lounge, sometimes with her head on the armrest. It thrills her when the Chap sings songs to her. She thumps her tail so fast it's a blur of motion. Lately she's been in the mood for ballads.

I don't feel like posing for your camera, I'd rather play with Jewel!

As you can tell from the photo, I need to hoover black dog hairs from the carpet near my desk, a favourite napping spot for the young dogs.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Battening Down

Messy weather on the way later today...snow, sleet, freezing rain, rain, harsh winds. Our parish Mardi Gras festival was cancelled--not a night to be out on the roadways.

After Wednesday's House session, I came home by way of our town library. When we built it--yes, I can say "we," because the Chap and I served on the building and capital campaign committee--we made sure to include lots of gallery space. An acquaintance from a neighbouring town, wife of a legislator in fact, is exhibiting this month, so I stopped in to view her work.

Her work in acrylics was all beautiful...woodlands, rivers, autumn views, ponds, bridges. I loved it all. No artist or photographer can resist Nubble Light, and I really liked her representation. The light and depth of colour really appeal to me...instead of the usual blazing hyper-blue sky background, this one is more muted.

There were definitely some paintings I would consider purchasing. It's always the case...but with a painter in the family who has provided us with multiple works in various media, plus original cover art paintings from some of my books, and a wealth of other artwork, the walls of the Lodge are hardly crying out for more decoration.

From time to time I do envision a new and different "hang" in some or all of our rooms. But I never develop the plan or put it into action.

Passing by the paperback spinner on my way out front door of the library, I spotted a very familiar book cover.

Nice to know my novels are still circulating. This particular one was published 10 years ago this week. I well remember that I spent the fortnight before Valentine's Day doing press and bookstore signings all over the Northeast. It's a point of pride that in the past decade, the book has been printed in a hardcover edition and translated into various foreign languages. Most recently, Russian. Having just received my 1099 MISC from my literary agency, it's nice to see that this backlist title continues to support me!

We had some excitement earlier this week when one of the Chap's longtime clients was awarded a new multi-city radio licence in Ireland. As usual, when receiving the good news, I chirped, "I wanna go to the launch party!" When the same client launched the Dublin station now known as Q-102, we were there for the big celebration, the sign-on at the station itself and the massive celebration in the evening.

In musical news...MAS (Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome) had its way with me. Yes, I succumbed. Already headed my way is the sweetest little vintage bowl-back (lute style) instrument with rosewood neck, mother-of-pearl inlay and ivory tuning nuts. Very little wear and tear. Not only that, I've struck up an email friendship with the seller, who attests to the fine qualities of her former possession. It was well within my price range, so I didn't violate my instructor's warning not to overspend on an older instrument.

Colour me blissful. Can't wait for it too arrive!