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

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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bear Today, Gone Tomorrow

I'm happy to report that I met my writing goals. And a good thing, too, because I'm spending a few days in "official mode."

Returned from the Big Lake in order to attend a meeting of the Suncook River Restoration Task Force, a group of state reps, state and federal officials, who must decide how to repair (and fund the repair) of our "broken" river. It abruptly and disastrously changed its course during the Mother's Day Floods of May, 2006 and caused severe flooding in the Patriot's Day Flood of April, 2007. Yes, my district has suffered more than its share of natural disasters...most recently the terrible tornado.

There was a message waiting for me from the Governor's office, notifying me of the Governor's disaster recovery briefing for representatives in tornado-affected towns. That takes place tomorrow.

Today I had a very kind telephone call from the Speaker of the House, expressing her sympathy and good wishes as the community struggles with the recovery.

After my task force meeting yesterday, the Chap and I met for a scrummy Mexican meal at the restaurant in the old town jail. It was packed--we didn't realise the mid-week after-work crowd was so large--so we didn't get a table in one of the jail cells.

We headed for home in our separate cars. He had to stop for diesel (ouch, talk about pain at the pump!) so I beat him home. I finished unloading some lake things from my car and was about to feed the dogs when the Chap raced into the house all excited.

"Check your bird feeders to see if they're intact. I just saw a bear walking up the road! Right in front of my car. It walked up the road then turned and went into our woods."

Because it wasn't even dark yet, this was a daytime bear sighting--unprecedented at the Lodge. We hoped it would come out into the yard before darkness fell. The dogs were very antsy, clearly they smelled something interesting out there. I wandered from window to window with camera in hand.

But the bear did not return.

It must have been on or around our property when I drove in--lurking somewhere. I was so jealous that the Chap saw it and I didn't.

In the night I had a dream about bears.

Our yard was covered with them. Two large ones were rolling around on the big deck. There were 13 medium-sized ones scattered about on the lawn. And there were 2 very young ones toddling around. Also, there was a dead guy, a stranger in a plaid jacket and a baseball cap, stretched out on the grass near the 13 bears.

Despite the presence of the corpse, I stepped outside to get the paper and bring the feeders in. I kept telling myself as long as I didn't get near the little bears, I'd probably be all right and the big bears wouldn't charge me like they'd done the dead man.

Ruth and Jewel tried to follow me onto the deck and I chased them back inside. "Don't let the bears see you!" The 2 really big bears were right there near the door, but they didn't seem to mind my being there.

But I decided to go back into the house.

Then I woke up.

I think it's been a couple of hundred years since a black bear killed a person in NH. (No time to look up the stats, must practise mandolin before my lesson.) So I'm assuming my dream isn't prophetic.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Staying in Place

I wrote copiously on Monday and hope for a repeption today, despite the fact that usually the day after an exceptionally productive session usually isn't. So it may be that I'll simply type my longhand draft and clean it up and determine my word count, though I'd very much like to put that chapter behind me. If I succeed, then I need to finish up some research--thereby qualifying myself to treat a 17th centurh case of smallpox. Then I can start my next chapter.

I was reading late and I slept late this morning. Sort of. At some mysterious early hour (battery in the alarm clock died) a team of roofers arrived next door. My bedroom windows are large and, at this season, left open at night. The dogs and I were startled...thinking a pack of men was climbing into our cottage, they barked and whined. I managed to calm them and, bizarrely, also managed to go back to sleep for an hour or so, despite the fact that the workers were many and not exactly quiet. When I was officially awake and alert, I counted six of them. But there might well be more. The neighbours' roof is hardly big enough to hold them! With so many hands, they rapidly and efficiently ripped up the old shingling and tar paper, stripped the roof to bare boards. And now they're reversing the process. They're a friendly bunch, very good-natured, calling back and forth to each other, thoroughly professional, and not obnoxious at all. The girls and I have got used to them being here. Ruth and Jewel sleep through the constant noise, which isn't as intrusive as I feared when I first woke this morning.

No signs of life from the compound on my other side. The house party gang were swimming and laughing very late into the night, and they slept in longer than I did!

It's a bright day on the Bay, and quite breezy. The girls and I had an hour-long walk this morning. There's no wind to speak of up on the road. They each had their swim. The water is a degree cooler than yesterday--I wasn't deterred by that but am hoping the winds will die down by late afternoon. Haven't had a sunset swim in a while.

Our private Road Association is having a part of it paved on Thursday, and we've received a schedule and instructions about parking cars off-site if we need to get in and out. I don't plan to be around then.

I've rescheduled my mandolin lesson so I could stay here today. Tomorrow afternoon I head for the capitol city for a task force meeting at the State House and a downtown dinner with my Chap. Mexican.

Here's one of those fancy hats I alluded to yesterday. The kind I don't own!

It's a pic of a pic, so the image is not terribly crisp. Our electronic, plugged-in, rustic-with-mod-cons cottage has everything but a scanner.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Brideshead Revisited Revisited

Yesterdays' deluge struck the Lodge, where the Chap was, with force. Only a few sprinkles here on the Big Lake. Watched Mad Men last night. Twice.

A cool, pleasant morning. On our morning walk, we smelled wood smoke from a nearby chimney. And sometimes, wafting through the trees, was the aroma of whatever people had for breakfast...mostly bacon and eggs! It was such a Monday morning--no walkers, joggers, or other dogs. Rush hour consisteed of three cars on our road, headed out on weekday errands. We walked around the Point, which we haven't done lately, then backtracked and marched up the hill to the point of the Point.

Along the way home, I paid especial attention to the various names of the local residents, remembering the Sign Board Wars of Road Association meetings long past. Some people think it déclassé to post surnames on trees along the road. Others protested that it's the only way people can find these camps, cottages, and houses tucked well off the roadway, down along the shore.

Our place was here before the vast majority of the other places, and I wondered what kind of markers existed when it and the two neighbouring compounds formed one vast property, long ago, back in the late 19th/very early 20th century. Back when the gents toiled at their banks and shipping offices and factories down in Boston and Lowell, and the women and children and servants spent their entire summers on the lake. And the gents would take the train up at the end of the week...and return to the city after the weekend.

It occurs to me that the Chap and I are carrying on this tradition, in our own fashion. Only I've got pups in place of children, no cook or maid, the train no longer runs along the river valley to the tip of the Bay, and my straw hat is nothing like as grand or decorated as the ladies' summer hats in the old family photos!

By the time we were back at the cottage again, the weather--and we three--were all warm enough to take a dip. The air temperature and the water temperature are exactly the same, 72 degrees. Ruth went in first, then me, then Jewel. I grabbed the bar of Ivory soap (99 and 44/100ths% pure!) and bathed.

For elevenses we three ate fat, sweet blueberries right off the big bush growing at the edge of the water. The girls scarfed down the ones within reach of a dog's snout.

Then we all sat at the sunny end of the dock for a while, I with my mug of tea, and watched a sailboat head up the Bay. And some ducks. And we kept an eye on nearby docks and floats. Our next door neighbours' children and grandchildren are in residence, and the teens and twenty-somethings were sunbathing and a horde of them took the boat out. The renters (three-weekers) at the compound next to the compound next to ours were reading the newspaper (the Globe or the Times?) have houseguests, and the guests have a gorgeous, languid black and white borzoi which excited my girls' interest not a little.

I'd hoped the walk and swim would wear out Ruth and Jewel enough that I could achieve lots of undisturbed writing time. When we first came in, I feared it had energised them--oh, the racing about and jumping on and off dog nests, and expectant faces. "What a fun morning, what are we doing next?" I ignored them. They settled down for some intense chewing and now are gently napping.

Mission accomplished!

I need to work because yesterday I did nothing but read. I was finishing up one of my all-time favourite works, Brideshead Revisited. I used to read it about once a year, then cut down to once a decade or so. My first close encounter with Waugh came with my college course on The Modern English Novel. My copy has several uderlinings in it--all personal, none academic--favourite lines and especially the names of Oxford pubs and places I frequented.

The catalyst for this re-read was the new film. I've no desire to watch it. I'm dismayed by the casting, the preview footage I've seen, and the running time. Two hours? The 1981 11-episode television production by Granada TV is far and away the finest screen adaptation of any novel--ever! I had far rather watch it again. And probably shall in the not-too-distant future.

Off to my office now, for an afternoon of heavy writing on the laptop.

Office pictured here:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Stroll

I don't consider myself much of a daylily person. It's not that I dislike them--I definitely do like them--but I admit to preferring other types of lilies.

Like this Stargazer in our dining room.

But I've never had a garden without daylilies, because I sort of assumed it was illegal not to grow them if you had space enough. I always did and do.

When I was putting in the gardens at the Lodge, some 14 years ago, I made a lot of purchases at a perennial farm. Everything is grown in the ground and there are giant photograph albums showing the plants in bloom. And I'd point at a picture and say "I'll have some of that, please!" and at another. And when my order was complete, a gardener would head out into the plots with a huge garden fork and fork up root balls and wrap them in newspaper and off I'd go to transplant them in my own beds.

That's how I acquired my daylilies. After studying the entire photo album featuring just daylilies, I was very choosy, taking only two sorts.

This burnt orange one:

And this one:

I did not choose this one. It chose me.

I didn't know I had it until after I transplanted the pinky-purple one from the fence, where it was overwhelmed by spreading rugosas, to the long perennial border. Evidently embedded in its tubers was a remnant of a tuber from the yellow-orange one above, and once it surfaced it came into its own.

After all the fierce, pounding rainstorms of late--4 inches in 36 hours--it's nice to have flowering plants that are so impervious. Therefore I find that in daylily season, temporarily at least, I am a daylily person.

My stroll took place yesterday, but I'm posting it today, thus it becomes a Sunday Stroll. Happy strolls to you, and to see more, go here.

As for the roses, the showers will ensure a good flush of flowers from the re-bloomers, but right now there's not much going on. Things are budding up, but only the rugosas have blossoms, and not many at that.

One of the few open flowers, a white rugosa, attracted a horde of monsters. Disgusting sight, isn't it? My first Japanese beetle encounter of the summer.

It was their last meal. I was their merciless executioner.

The NWS has determined that it was a single tornado that terrorised NH at midday Thursday, rather than a storm that spawned multiple tornadoes. The total of affected towns has expanded to eleven.

Another wild weather extravaganza is expected later today, which will doubtless have an adverse impact on the clean-up. The past two days of perfect sunshine were a gift.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Journey and the Destination

For most of the drive from the Lodge to the cottage, there's no sign of an EF2 tornado. (And at last count, it was nine stricken towns, and one more pending.) Not a limb on the road, not a leaf out of place. But the whole way up, I knew that a relatively short distance from the roadway, it was an altogether different scene.

There was heavy weekend traffic. And a most unusual number of utility company vehicles, Servpro vans (the water damage people), and tree removal/crane-type trucks.

At only one spot did I find evidence of the storm. Seeing it, I was even more thankful I stayed at the Lodge on Thursday instead of driving to the cottage:

A few days ago, there was no open sky visible in this spot:

I cried when I saw the altered landscape. I was already suffering from whatever equivalent of "survivor's guilt" corresponds to this situation, even more so when I saw the cottage intact and all our beloved trees in their usual places.

The dogs and I had our walk a little while after arriving--first we listened to a neighbour's Storm Story and his secondhand stories from other locals. The Chap drove up separately and met us on the road as we were making for home. Soon afterwards we all congregated on the dock for an afternoon swim.

Ruth and Jewel spot the invading army of ducks.

Ruth likes the way Jewel tastes when wet.

A head shot.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Dinosaurs or Something"

Most people along the 21-mile stretch hit by that fearsome weather event yesterday have a storm story. Here's mine.

Early in the morning, hearing the forecast, I decided not to travel to the Big Lake. In retrospect, this is one of the wisest and safest decisions of my life. Had I followed my original plan, I would've been travelling on Route 28 at precisely the time the storm was leveling giant trees along that stretch.

By mid-morning I was on the telephone handling some diocesan matters, first with the Canon to the Ordinary and then our Canon for Stewardship. These conversations had a business and a social component.

Then I drifted downstairs to the computer, to deal with email and event-planning. The predicted rain was clearly on the way. I heard a bit of thunder and saw a few flashes of lightning, and my internet connection started failing (we get our high-speed via our satellite dish and it's dodgy in extremely low-cloud situtions.) I shut down the electronics.

Went upstairs and practiced the mandolin for a while, my beautiful Turlough O'Carolan piece. By this time the rain was coming down--in buckets--and the winds were whipping. I got up to look out the window and saw the rain flattening the Queen Anne's lace in the garden.

I'm not exactly sure when the world went so dark, as that giant black-and-green cloud that everyone mentions passed over the Lodge. I remember that it was like nightfall outside--even darker than dusk--and quite dark inside the house where I didn't have lights on.

At that point, I didn't understand why.

When I laid aside my instrument, I went into the bedroom to do some tidying--probably between 11:45 and noontime. The local radio presenter broke into the Diana Rehm show and mentioned tornado warnings for "Barnstead and Alton" and that a possible tornado had struck along Route 4.

It was about time for the local noon newscast, so I turned on the bedroom television, primarily to see the Doppler radar so I could find out how close to our cottage the storm was passing. The news was already on and I learned the storm had been so very close to the Lodge.

That newscast lasted all day, till 6:30 p.m.

Our event was featured on the national news, near the opening of the news hole, prompting emails and phone calls from concerned friends.

This morning is sunny and clear, with a sky so beautifully blue that if I didn't know all that had happened, I wouldn't believe it. The newspaper pictures were as graphic and almost more chilling than the television footage, the articles contained quotes from friends and acquaintances--whose storm stories were truly alarming.

All morning long I've heard helicopters flying over the Lodge...a reminder that the storm's path was located just on the other side of our mountain. These choppers are carrying the Governor, who is doing another fly-over, presumably the experts from the National Weather Service, and others. I saw an orange one that looked like a medical air-lift or maybe it had simply been commandeered for another purpose.

The dogs aren't too keen on the choppers, they bark at the really loud ones.

About a dozen injured people had to seek treatment at local hospitals--cuts and abrasions mostly. There was a single fatality in a collapsed house, the grandmother of a 3-month old infant who survived, as did its grandfather.

The shelter at our local school has already been closed.

The clean-up is ongoing, and will be for days if not weeks. FEMA is making the necessary assessments of residences and businesses. Our U.S. Senators and Representatives promise to seek federal disaster aid. (I think we're still waiting for what was promised after the severe river floods of 2006 and 2007.)

Our neighbours on the Big Lake say the power was only off for a couple of hours, but the cable is still out. Considering the trials of other area residents, it's hardly worth mentioning.

Things that are worth mentioning:

"My wife looked outside and saw a giant, black funnel cloud...Half the house is gone. Another house is missing."

"Tornado...went right through the backyard...It was all leaves, like a wall of water with green specks in it."

"I grabbed what I could."

"We have 70-foot pines completely uprooted...The guy behind us, he's got a view of the mountains he's never had before."

"It sounded like two trains going by."

"All at once, the sky turned to a tinted blackish color. And from that color--it must have been a lot of rain--it just went pure white. I couldn't even see my porch from my door. I could just hear all the snapping. It sounded like something big was coming through the woods, like something you'd hear on TV, dinosaurs or something."

Too many lives irrevocably changed. So many properties damaged. Countless handsome and historic trees lost.

We'll get through this, of course. I have to believe it.

Hope is an evergreen, with deep, deep roots.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dispatch from the Disaster Zone

I wasn't planning to blog today but...some people might need to know that I'm still able to.

A couple of hours ago a powerful storm passed over the Lodge, but even so I had no idea what had occurred only a couple of miles to the south and east of here. I was unaware of the violence and impact of this weather event until I heard radio reports, which prompted me to turn on the television.

In addition to torrential rains, windstorms, and lightning, we were visited by what might have been a tornado. Reportedly 50-100 homes in my town suffered damage. One, on the next closest lake to our little lake, is completely demolished. Trees are knocked over, roots and all, or snapped like toothpicks. Power lines are down. People are trapped in their cars.

The Governor, who shortly arrived on the scene, was flown in and out in a State Police helicopter and is still on the scene. He saw the damage from the air and says hundreds of homes are damaged and many collapsed. He promptly declared a State of Emergency in 5 counties. (We own property in 2 of them.) As best I can tell, 7 towns are affected. (We own property in 2 of them.)

The "tornado"--if such it turns out to be--passed over about a mile or two east of the Lodge and swept due northward, leaving carnage in its wake, as close as the mountain across the way from the one in our backyard, and as far as Wolfeboro--the town adjacent to our town and village on the Bay.

I've phoned our neighbours at the cottage next to ours on the Big Lake, and they are well and safe. There, as here, they experienced heavy rain and lightning and wind, but no damage. There, unlike here, the power is off.

I'd planned to drive up to the cottage this afternoon with the dogs, but when I heard the weather reports (which did not, of course, include a "tornado"!) I decided to stay at the Lodge till tomorrow morning. As it turns out, I couldn't have got there anyway, the highway is closed in several places. And may continue to be, depending how the road crews are doing.

I had a subcommittee meeting today, too, but I wasn't sure whether the road south was passable, and I knew the major highway, my westward route to the Fish & Game Department was either closed or clogged with traffic and emergency vehicles. I don't even know if the meeting took place, but I phoned in that I wasn't coming.

The Chap, trapped in an all-day meeting, heard rumours of what had happened during his lunch break, and phoned in. My mother saw a report on CNN or MSNBC (both had coverage) and phoned to see if I was all right.

And of course, I've been phoning around myself, checking on friends.

The images of devastation being broadcast on our local television station are heartbreaking. And terrifying. There's already news of one comfirmed death in a collapsed house and optimist though I am I'm prepared for news of injuries. There's a house-to-house search/welfare check underway. Up by the Big Lake, the high school will provide shelter to those who can't get home or whose homes are damaged.

I feel fortunate and blessed. I grieve for those who have suffered property losses, and worse. And I felt somewhat useless, until I started a clothing collection. The Red Cross is probably going to need it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Today marks three full years of blogging. This is my 660th posting.

I've reunited with old friends, made new friends (some of them via blogging).

Shadow and Lola, our long-lived and much loved dogs, left us.

We welcomed Ruth, then Jewel, into our household.

Our Rector moved from our parish to another; within a week of his departure heaven sent us a wonderful and faithful new Rector.

I was unexpectedly elected to serve my community and New Hampshire as a State Representative.

I did some paid consulting and even more pro bono work.

I travelled with the Chap--to London and the UK many times, to Eastern Europe, to Montréal and Québec, to the South, Down East to Maine, over to Vermont, a couple of times to New York.

I presided at or attended committee and Council meetings (too many meetings!) at which much good was accomplished and where the fellowship is a gift in itself.

I wrote articles.

Celebrated book sales in foreign territories.

Created websites.

Helped build a town library.

Learned to play the mandolin.

Researched my novel, making many discoveries, and wrote some of it (but not enough--never enough).

Attended writers' conferences.

Spent many, many days and nights at the cottage on the Big Lake.

Shovelled mountains of snow.

Planted and grew and picked plenty of roses.

Watched birds and wild beasts.

Tried to be a good and giving person. Sometimes succeeded, too often didn't.

Learned some life lessons from others, including other bloggers, for which I thank you. (And also for the recipes!)

There are days, I confess, that I wish my time was not so full. That I could return to the quieter, more contemplative, more productive (in the writing sense) life I lived prior to September 11, 2001. But these times are so rich and rewarding that the nostalgia is only fleeting. Besides, I'm the one who has the power to ensure that my life is properly balanced. I think right now it is--as much as it can be. Probably because it's summertime!

And with that reflection, I'm off to write my book.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Together Again

I captured this Queen Anne's lace yesterday morning and forgot to post it as part of my stroll. Turns out, Mibsy featured a very similar one.

Yes, the girls did levitate when our man arrived home late last night. Later than expected, as his plane sat on the tarmac for a few hours at Chicago, held up by foul weather on the East Coast.

He passed the time by playing Good Samaritan, and turning me into one, too. His young seatmate was meeting a British Airways flight to London, and flying from there to Ireland. And because it looked like she wouldn't make her trans-Atlantic plane, the Chap phoned me on his mobile--from the plane--to go online and look up timetables so he could coordinate Aer Lingus and Irish Rail and Bus Eireann connections as her Plan B. She couldn't have asked for a better assistant than he, because he's spent so much time working there, zipping about from Dublin to Cork to Galway to Shannon to (fill in the blank.) Sometimes with me, sometimes not. Not only did I earn my travel agent stripes, of course, I now long to be in Eire again.

I'm not planning that trip, but have begun pre-planning for Washington, DC and London. I've got an opportunity to go to Montréal as well but might forgo that one for several reasons, one of which is book writing. I have implicit faith in the Chap to do my usual shopping and stocking up. He can manage most of it at SAQ and PharmaPrix or Jean Coutu.

Yesterday I got caught up in the Mad Men day and night marathon. In-tense! Looking forward to the new season, starting next Sunday at 10 p.m.

The Chap was asked to do the readings at tomorrow's funeral--partly because he has such A Voice. As parish photographer, I was assigned at task, too. I spent part of the afternoon reviewing the parish photo archive, looking for shots of a wonderful and much-loved 86 year-old who should've lived to age 106. Truly it will be a celebration of a long life well-lived.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Strolling on Sunday

The garden I weeded today was not my own. More about that in a minute.

This is my "I Don't Only Grow Roses" Sunday stroll. I've got a few roses blooming still, and more to come, but today I'll feature other plants.

On this grey, muggy morning I first strolled onto the screened porch where passiflora, my passion flower, is blooming. I've got two pots of them. My mother's favourite flower, and a favourite of mine too (non-rose category).

Another favourite on the porch, the stargazer lily. Oh, the fragrance! I no longer grow these in the gardens because of the dreaded lily beetle.

Outdoors, in the wildflower meadow, black-eyed susans.

The white mallow.

A yarrow cultivar, with hues from deep pink to palest pink to more-white-than-pink.

In one of the gardens at the back of the house, a daylily.

Same garden, pink mallow.

Same garden, yellow coreopsis or tickseed.

On the arching arbor, honeysuckle.

Then I stopped strolling and dressed for church.

It was a large crowd today, brought together in grief. The supply priest was as wonderful as I expected, with a perfect sense of occasion. We were tearful. As well as mourning our sudden and unexpected loss, we had to pull together to prepare for the visitation (at funeral home only a few steps away), the wake, and Tuesday's funeral, with two of our former rectors presiding. The relatives who don't live in New Hampshire are making their way here--from the South, from overseas. The fire department in her home town is in charge of the collation, which will take place after the graveside service.

After church our parishioners pitched in to tidy the Undercroft, where just yesterday the sale tables and baked goods (including those prepared by the dearly departed) were packed with items. (We made a lot of money from our fundraiser, she would've been so pleased!) It helped us all to be busy, for we, too, are her family.

There are more and better kitchen and table set-up people than me, so I took on the outdoor duties, pulling weeds in the hillside garden and tidying along the walkways.

Our tasks reminded us that this is not only a parish loss, but a community loss. Large crowds are expected.

This white hydrangea is like a beacon of welcome.

You'll find more strollers here.

The Chap returns this evening. Happy sigh. The dogs and I haven't seen him in almost a week. They will levitate with joy. I think I'll be able to keep my feet on the ground, but no guarantees.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Parade

Major thunderstorm last night. Many inches of much-needed rain came down, in buckets.

Today was bright but muggy. I was up and out fairly early for me (on a Saturday)--headed to the cottage to return some laundry and take care of a couple of things. On the way up and on the way down I passed the spot where the terrible auto accident took place. Somebody--one of our parishioners, I'm sure--tied a bouquet of sunflowers to the spot where our beloved church member lost her life. Even without that, it was clear an accident had occurred there.

This morning I searched the newspaper local section for her obituary and didn't find it...because there was a front-page story about her, and the wonderful work she did for her community and our church. Her family and friends did a lovely job of sharing what made her special--her smile, her warmth, her willingness. The photo accompanying the piece was one I'd taken, capturing that smile.

She was on her way home from doing her usual Thursday visit to the hospital, where she was a pastoral care volunteer, reading to and chatting with patients and brightening their day.

From the cottage I went to the nearby town that celebrates Old Home Days this weekend. Yes, it's Parade Season, and all candidates seeking re-election or election were participating in the parade.

The four incumbent reps in my district rode in our award-winning ginormous 1970 Cadillac convertible. It was appropriately decorated:

My political peeps and me.

The start of the parade.

The theme this year was South of the Border, so lots of Mexican-style floats. Love that piñata!

Local draft horses. Or as we say in these parts, "pullin' hosses."

A gorilla matador.

The Players were decked out as Mexican dancers.

It's a long, long parade and we smiled and waved the whole time. People were very nice, waving and clapping and some called out nice comments. Even people we don't know!

Not as many floats this year (petrol prices) and not quite as many spectators as last year (weather was hot and humid but there was a breeze, and plenty of shady places for people to sit along Main Street and the other streets.

Our caddy got overheated, and just as the parade was ending started spewing and smoking. We let it cool down and fed it water and it responded.

Today's crop of thunderstorms is on the way. The warning on the radio puts the Lodge inside the target area.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Things in a Sad Time

Rose of the Day: The tree rose growing in a pot on the big deck.

One of my favourite people in the world sent me a box of cheese. Goat cheese, my favourite cheese in the world. The most beautiful goat cheeses I've ever seen:

The big one in the middle with all the flowers is called Van Goat. Moving clockwise, the others are Monet, Apricot Pistacchio, Cranberry Walnut, and Tomato Basil. They almost look too beautiful to eat. Almost! Last night I crumbled Cranberry Walnut on my spinach salad, and it was delicious.

I was mistaken about the scheduling of our renovation (I'm at the Big Lake so much, the Chap has been in charge of Lodge-related decisions) so in the week ahead I can log some more Big Lake time. And will.

Yesterday I had two meetings at the Fish & Game Region 3 office in Durham. My legislative committee met for a presentation on federal saltwater fish stock management and the upcoming registration process for fishermen. Immediately afterwards my subcommittee met. I drove to Portsmouth to do some errands and even stopped at Macy's but wasn't in a shopping mood.

On my way home, I visited the Emery Farm shop ("350 years of Family Farming!") I bought a punnet of raspberries and one of blueberries and some enormous locally-grown tomatoes.

Last night a call came late from a fellow parishioner, with the unbelievable news that a member of our small parish--a faithful pillar of the parish with the happiest outlook and the warmest of smiles--died in an automobile accident yesterday. The sort of accident that closes the highway for hours and shows up on the nightly news. Words cannot express the sorrow. This weekend we're having one of our big fundraisers so everyone will be together, and busy, and that's a good thing. But I do wish the Chap weren't in Denver--he's Senior Warden--plus our Rector is bound for Alaska. The former Rector, who knew her so well, is available for pastoral care, and I expect this week's subsitute priest will be be wonderfully comforting. It promises to be a very sad Sunday.

My oriole feeder is not only for orioles. The hummingbirds use it, too. And this morning, a butterfly.

Today I'm trying to stay cool--it's dangerously hot, bad air warnings--and bake Key Lime pies for a dinner party tonight, down the road. These two activities are not at all compatible.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Leaving & Haying

Been working on the book. Till late yesterday, when Ruth and I had to run Jewel to the vet for a brief visit. The dogs had a little turf war in the bedroom at 3 a.m.--in the dark--Monday morning over beds. A minor injury resulted but I was worried about infection. All is well and after a day of tension the girls are bestest buddies and playmates again.

I celebrated the concluding hours of a most lovely (and productive!) week at the cottage with a bottle of Mort Subite, my beloved raspberry beer, imported from Belgium (via Quebec).

Today I left the Big Lake and probably won't return for a while. We've got a major renovation project scheduled here at the Lodge--master bath--and I need to be on the scene to supervise. Plus at the weekends there are some campaign-related activities. Oh, and the weeds have overtaken the gardens. I think there might just be a shred of hope that I might vanquish them. When this heat wave ends, I'll certainly make the effort.

Went down to the dock this afternoon for some parting shots.

Oh, how I hate to leave the blueberries! (I ate the ripened ones, right off the bush, and called it lunch!)

Marigolds in the boathouse window box. They were planted about five years ago, and self sow. Yellow is my preferred colour for this little flower--for me, the only possible colour. Orange doesn't do much for me. Is mine a minority opinion?

After all the 4th of July holidaymakers left, and always after a weekend, the lake was very quiet. Hardly any boats, very few kayaks. But there was some traffic at the south end of the Bay...

A blimp!

This was a first for me. I've seen helicopters and small planes and floatplanes and float-hangliders in our airspace. Never a blimp.

It was the Hood milk company blimp. And because I seemed to be just about the only person out there on the Bay watching, it came in lower and really close to my dock. I waved at them but their altitude made it impossible to tell if they were waving back.

It was a lovely drive back to the Lodge. The weather is hot and dry, perfect for haying. My friends with hayfields are busy, busy, busy. The cutting was finished on the big hilly meadow up the road, and the baling was underway. I just love haying time...although it does mean summer is advancing quickly.

Went to the hairdresser today, have a much shorter cut and love it. During my time facing the mirror, I tried to decide if my face shows that I've lost--wait for it--14 pounds. That's a stone! My latest goal is a total of 15. Nearly there. Once I make it, I'll try to remember to explain! For a while I only knew I'd lost the weight because of the digits on the scale. But now I'm very much aware of the bodily change.

I'm also aware of my husband's absence. The Chap left yesterday for a conference in Denver. We lived in that area for 11 years and for the first few years we lived in NH he occasionally commuted back to his office. (When he wasn't communting across the Atlantic Ocean.) Today he got together with a former professor and business partner. Tonight he's dining at our most favourite Mexican restaurant there, playing tour guide to his office colleagues. I'm trying not to be jealous. It's not easy.

The little lake has been completely overshadowed by the Big Lake on this blog. So here's a small part of it, captured as the girls and I arrived late today.

It's dusk as I write this, and the loon is out there on the water, calling. Welcoming us back.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Slow, Normal, Fast Forward

Monday mornings on the Big Lake, even grey ones like this, are special. And definitely lived at slow speed. Nobody much is around. Not even the Chap--he's at the Lodge today. Whole chunks of an hour can pass without the sight of a boat on the water. When walking the girls, I didn't meet a soul...not a walker, not any dogs, and only one vehicle (from a local marina, meaning some neighbour of ours is having boat trouble.)

I strolled yesterday but it wasn't much different than the past few strolls. Trees and woodland plants and lots and lots of fungi. Besides, I'm doing some work with the dogs when I walk them nowadays and it's not conducive to camera work also.

In recent days I faced--and solved--a little challenge with the timeline of my book, which covers an extended time period compared to others I've written. In some years my characters experience more plot (life events) than in other years. Outlining it is like running a video or audio tape--for a while it's on normal playback, then fast forward, then slow, then play.

Last week I decided I had to slow down a section I thought I could fast forward through. If that makes any sense. (It does to me.)

Anyway, in order to tie things together, I suddenly find I must set a particular chapter in France, at the court of King Louis XIV, at Versailles. And can incorporate a specific, well-documented court celebration featuring an equestrian spectacle.

Not a problem.

Actually, a pleasure.

I've studied late 17th century France. I've roamed all over Versailles.

Most useful of all, in Brussels I actually observed a carrousel, and I took a lot of photographs and wrote about it in my travel diary and collected some background information about the production. Sometimes it seems like no life experience is ever wasted, when you're a writer.

I've found some illustrations of similar events and located a book that has pictures of the actual event and there are some recordings of its music. But most of the first-hand primary source accounts of the carrousel, which featured both male and female riders, and the usual elaborate costumes and decorations, were written in French. I can still read the language well enough to translate them, but it's going to be laborious. There are French speakers in my family, and even a professional translator/editor. Tempted as I am to send out a plea for help, no doubt I shall stubbornly plow ahead. I haven't yet looked to see if there's a French dictionary here. If not, I should be able to make some progress before returning to the Lodge, where I've got plenty.

Not only must I translate French, I've got to educate myself about the dreaded smallpox, its physical symptoms and the 17th century treatments. I was going to need the smallpox information eventually, for a later chapter, but that work will get done now. Spoiler alert! One patient doesn't die, meaning it's a "mild" case, or the doctoring was exceptional (or both). One patient dies. (I don't know if this technically counts as a spoiler, it's in the history books!)

I spent most of yesterday outlining the chapter and organising the French reference materials. Now I'm working on smallpox. Then I've got to finish writing the current chapter so I can get started on the France chapter.

My little detour into 17th century French equestrian spectacle just goes to show how one can spend years--seriously, years--researching and planning a novel. And even then, things come up that you don't expect.

Au revoir!

P.S. As it's Bastille Day, my present obsession with France and things French seems perfectly appropriate. Rather, I should say, à propos.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I've got one husband, two dogs, a couple of lake houses, three motorcars (down from four), two Old Town canoes (one wooden and antique, the other kevlar), two parents, one brother, two pair of aunts and uncles, five first cousins, dozens of rose bushes, several thousand volumes in my personal library (truly--I used to catalogue them obsessively), and nearly that many items of clothing (just joking--but my closets are stuffed with garments because stuff I've owned for years still fits and never goes out of fashion or routinely--and conveniently--comes back in).

As of today, I own four mandolins. Because I suffer from MAS, Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome.

Four weeks ago, when my friend was visiting, we took a road trip to Brattleboro, Vermont. One of several reasons for the trip was my desire to test-drive a particular type of mandolin. I tried out several but was enchanted with the one I went there to see. I sort of thought I'd get one around the first anniversary of my starting lessons. (At that time, still four months away.)

This week, when a reputable long-distance vendor had a special discount on my desired model, with case included plus free shipping and insurance, the proverbial handwriting was all over the proverbial wall. It was A Sign that the time to purchase was already here.

So I made The Call.

Simple decisions are often accompanied by complexities. The shipping time was much shorter than I expected, and the instrument was already on its way when I realised it was headed for the wrong house. A few phone calls later, it was re-routed (in transit).

Around lunchtime I had a call from the husband of the FedEx driver. Down in Manchester, in the wee hours of this morning, my package was loaded on the wrong truck. The man's wife, a FedEx driver, ended up with it--she was making her rounds on the opposite side of the Big Lake. And he was phoning to give me her phone number and to let me know she was willing to go a little out of her way to meet me, to make sure I got my mandolin today.

Eileen and I connected via phone and arranged a meeting place convenient to both of us, and described our respective vehicles. (Thank goodness for State Rep licence plates!) I left the cottage and wended my way down to the tip of the Bay, only to discover that there was a huge Craft Fair going on at our meeting point. Everyone in New England had descended on the parking lots, cars (mostly from Massachusetts) and pedestrians and dogs were swarming the area.

I was doubtful I'd locate anything in that crowd, much less a tan Suburban with a magnetic FedEx decal on its door. The curses were taking shape in my mind when I noticed directly in front of me in the oncoming traffic the driver of a tan Suburban waving. At me.

We each pulled into the crammed parking lot, left our engines running, jogged towards each other. I signed her handheld thingie--with profuse thanks--and she turned over my big box. I wanted to hug her but restrained myself. We were blocking the flow of traffic.

I was home within 15 minutes of leaving the cottage. Good thing, too, because according to the Chap, the dogs couldn't handle my absence--the moment I left, they had a meltdown. "But She never ever leaves the cottage. Why did She abandon us? Where did She go? Is She taking a walk without us? Why couldn't we go with Her?"

At the Lodge, I routinely leave them behind, alone or with the Chap. They aren't used to it here. Couple of babies, they are--and I think it hurt the Chap's feelings.

Observe, my new acquisition.

It's pristine, with that nice "new mandolin" aroma, some sort of combination of wood and varnish. (What looks like marks on the body is the camera flash bounce.)

I sat down immediately with my music and played every tune I'm learning or have perfected or memorised. (This calmed down the dogs, they chilled out and curled up at my feet the way they always do when I'm practicing.)

I'm thrilled to find that this high-quality instrument has already made me a better player. Or else I'd progressed more than I thought, and the other mandolins were holding me back.

Looks like my MAS is in remission. Possibly cured.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Writer Reads

When I blog roses from the Lodge one day, you can expect me to blog about lake life the next. Yes, I've changed locations again. Last evening, after a madly busy day that included numerous telephone calls, a legislative subcommittee meeting, and a mandolin lesson, Ruth and Jewel and I returned to the Big Lake in time for supper.

I'd planned to read a research book last night but in one of those "research miracles" that occur with wonderful regularity, I chanced to tune in to Public TV in the opening moments of a program about tracing ordinary people's royal lineage--specifically, their direct descent from various royal bastards. And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but the male protagonist of my very own novel, and his descendents. One of whom I've met and corresponded with, the other of whom I shall try to see when back in London.

I still suspect I dreamt it all.

I haven't any lake photos to share today. There was a nice sailboat in the Bay just now but I couldn't be bothered to step outside with the camera.

Instead of an image, I'll give a textual vignette. This morning after our walk the dogs had their usual swim. They'd just come out of the water when the mother duck with 7 babies and the other mother duck with 9 babies each came swimming otwards our dock. For a moment the two flocks converged, and 18 ducks were paddling about together. A moment later the giant flock separated into its component parts--no confusion about which group each kid belonged with!

Ruth immediately tried to take charge and "herd" them. The mum and her 9 young headed down the Bay, the mum with 7 stopped in the shallows just off our dock and floated there for about 5 minutes, all preening their feathers at the same time. Jewel was fascinated, standing stock still and watching their every move. Each time a duckling veered away from the group, Ruth would almost jump off the dock to herd it back into place. Would've made a charming film but of course my camera was up at the house and I wasn't about to leave the scene.

On to today's topic--

I've done a significant amount of pleasure reading this summer. Because the broader historical genre is what I write, technically it's professional reading as well--keeping up with the market. (Tax deductible, too!)

Susan Holloway Scott is an auto-buy for me, and her third fictional biography was hot off the press when I snapped it up. These books are written in the first person. I'll admit up front that I'm not especially fond of first-person historical fiction--definitely the direction of the trend (most of Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir--probably why I haven't read them!) A personal taste thing: I genuinely prefer third person narrative and multiple viewpoints. But I make exceptions for exceptional authors and people I actually know. Susan's first subject was Sarah Churchill, first Duchess of Marlborough. The second was Barbara, Lady Castlemaine, Charles II's most notorious mistress. (I strongly recommend both.) Her current book features Nell Gwynn, another of Charles's mistresses--and a popular Restoration actress. It's an effective portrait of a complex and very public person. All books are extremely well-written and historically accurate, absorbing tales of strong women, each of whom has her own distinct voice and outlook. I find that each novel is even better than the one before, or else I have a progressive appreciation for each subject, and all are terrific. I've studied Nell so much for so many years (decades)that I consider myself a highly critical reader of any novel about her. (Some were terribly disappointing and one was grossly inaccurate.) I can report that The King's Favorite outshines them all.

This was my second Tracy Chevalier novel. Like practically everybody, I loved Girl with a Pearl Earring. I was less thrilled with Burning Bright. I made a point of reading this one because it features historical characters about whom I know a great deal--poet William Blake and equestrian impresario Philip Astley. That wasn't the problem. It's third person, multiple viewpoints--unlike Girl. Just as first person viewpoint isn't a deal-breaker, third person doesn't necessarily float my boat!

Happily, Portrait of an Unknown Woman far, far exceeded my expectations, which were of the highest. I absolutely adored this one. So much so that I'm already looking forward to a re-read. All the characters are real, members of Sir Thomas More's family circle and persons who interacted with them--most notably the painter Hans Holbein. Very strongly plotted, a superiour example of Tudor period historical fiction.

This novel is over 20 years old. It's fictional with some historical characters, set in the early 18th century, and has the epic qualities I so rarely find in the historical genre, and sorely miss. Through a Glass Darkly is an emotional rollercoaster. When it was first released, I was one of the zillions who made it a bestseller. I remember liking it and being impressed with the quality of writing but not loving it. When I re-read it a few weeks ago, I really did love it. Last summer a prequel, Dark Angels was published. It takes place closer to the time of my own novel, and was very well done.

I never got round to reading Now Face to Face a direct sequel to TAGD. After re-reading and loving TAGD, I raced to Borders for this new edition. It's my current read and came with me to the lake as my reward for getting lots of work done editing my manuscript!

And now for something completely different:

I have absolutely no objectivity about Katie Fforde. For me, she's the modern incarnation of Jane Austen. A few families in a country village, a single man in possession of a fortune must be in want of a wife...all that stuff! She's a contemporary Georgette Heyer and wrote "chick lit" before there was any such thing, so I don't think of her books as chick lit. Her style is not only entertaining, her heroines are very human modern women involved in interesting pursuits as they proceed towards their happy ending. The novels also evoke for me so many aspects of English ways of living that I experienced(and keenly miss), especially during our Clifton/Bristol years. Wedding Season, about a trio of wedding planners, isn't yet available in the US but all Katie's other titles are. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting her at the RNA annual summer party in London and she's as delightful in person as she is on the page!

So now you know what I'm doing when not blogging. Or writing. Or researching. Or walking dogs. Or practicing mandolin. Or gazing out upon the Big Lake. Or adoring my roses.