"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, April 30, 2009

Goose v. Duck

This wildlife encounter occurred on Monday morning. My activities since then haven't been primarily legislative or related to constituent service.

I was in the cottage sitting room writing up a storm, the girls napping all round me, when I heard a strange barking sound. It seemed to be located near our neighbour's property, down by the water. Went onto the porch to see what it was and saw a ginormous Canada goose, sitting in the water not too far from shore, honking like a maniac.

I've never seen a goose in our waters. I was taking his picture, and sensed that he was talking to someone. A minute later, another goose flew in and landed hear him. At which point he stopped honking.

He started swimming towards the little cove to the north of our property, and she followed.

But--unbeknownst to them, or to me, a mallard couple was already in the cove! They were foraging near the spot where the brook empties into the lake.

The male mallard--you can see him on the other side of the neighbour's dock--swam forward to meet the male goose.

The mallard moved in and stared him down.

The goose--many times the larger--backed away. He returned to his mate. After an affronted honk or two, the Canada geese flew away across the Bay.

Having successfully driven them off, the mallard and his mate also flew away.

It was a brief but entertaining episode. I assume the Canada geese were just passing through...perhaps on their way back to Canada? It was nice to see them but we don't want them hanging around.

Haven't yet spotted our loon/s. Wonder who'd win in a Goose v. Loon matchup? Probably the loon. From what I observed, gooses aren't that brave.

In birding news from the Lodge, our orioles are back and feeding at their feeder. No sign yet of the hummingbirds--any minute now. The crazy head-bashing robin wakes us--and the dogs--every single morning. Loud barking ensues.

I will spend part of the afternoon discussing beavers and beaver dams. A topic with which I have considerable interest and not a little experience.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Floral Views

My purple snake's head fritillary has opened. Here's one of my "inside the bell" shots. I love the way it turned out.

I don't love the way this one turned out but here's the flower head:

It's quite similar in colour and shape to this hellebore.

The bergenia is also blooming.

Before leaving the Big Lake yesterday I had an interesting (at least to me) wildlife encounter with an unexpected outcome. I've got photos and even video, but no time to post them now.

It's another trying week, packed with responsibilites on so many fronts. I'll be spending lots of time in my car and in meetings and so on. My attitude about it all isn't terribly good, I confess. Re-entry from my lakeside life to Lodge life (not that I'm spending my life at the Lodge) is harder than it should be. But a little tour of my flower gardens earlier, with the camera, put me in a better frame of mind.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Musical Monday: Tanita Tikaram

The bay at 6:10 this morning. Very placid.

Today's tune is a longtime favourite. The person who posted the video to YouTube got the song title wrong, it should rather be Twist in my Sobriety.

The dogs and I had a lovely morning walk. They're napping now and I'll be writing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Stroll: Flowers & Lake Living

I shot the flower photos yesterday morning before our caravan headed to the cottage for our first weekend of the season on the Big Lake. I'm posting them today on the theory that there will be lots of lakeside Sundays in the future, but springtime in my gardens at the Lodge is but a fleeting thing.

White hyacinth.

White fritillary...the checkered purply one hasn't quite opened up.

I wondered what the inside of the bell-shaped flower looks like. So I positioned my camera lens underneath the flower pictured above to get this image.

I don't even remember planting this variety of daffodil. But clearly I did! They are very nice indeed.

I discovered that a flying squirrel has a nest in one of my bird nesting boxes. It often happens. She used the bark mulch from the pile at the base of the tree as nesting material. The first time I flipped up the door to take a peek, the squirrel just gazed back at me with her big round googly eyes. I dragged the Chap outside to see, and the second time when I raised the door, the squirrel squeaked and ran up the tree trunk. "It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature," said my spouse.

We arrived at the cottage around lunchtime. It was so hot, more than 85 degrees. This is unprecedented for April. We've never opened up the house so early. Water system is turned on, porch furniture is in place, refrigerator is stocked. The trees aren't even leafed out yet, yet we were wearing shorts and t-shirts!

The lake was gorgeous.

What's odd about the following photos?

Hint: the size of the dog does not correspond to the size of the bed.

Last night at bedtime our larger dog chose the smaller bed (a new acquisition, intended for Ruth!) and the wee dog took possession of the bigger bed with my McCallum clan tartan cover, to which I'd added extra stuffing--for Jewel.

I was laughing so hard I almost fell out of our bed. During the course of the night, they did exchange beds from time to time.

We also brought a new chew bone to the lake. So from time to time we encounter the mysterious phenomenon known as...Bonehenge.

We did take a real Sunday Stroll to the Point and back. Nothing particlarly blog-worthy except that the streams are very full and flowing at the moment and the woods seem very open because of the lack of leaves and tree canopy.

Not quite as hot nor as bright as yesterday.

The Chap leaves later today. The girls and I will remain another night.

Thanks for visiting. If you want to keep strolling, go to Aisling's place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Can't Sit Still

This has been the most beautiful morning of the year so far. I've been busy in our sunroom/screened porch--dusting, tidying, shifting furniture, moving the big plants (passion flower, jasmine, fig tree, loquat tree) into their usual positions. I sat in my grandfather's old wooden rocker and read the morning paper, listening to every bird song imaginable. Watching the chickadees and, I think, the cardinals collect bits of leaf and straw. Nesting materials? Looks that way to me!

Says Ruth, "The air smells lovely!

Says Jewel, "I'm planning to sunbathe on the steps all day!"

After spending 3 full days in Concord this week I desperately need to do some writing. But clearly this is not an indoor day. The garden is calling. I'm responding.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Damp-Earth Day

After a long absence the rain returned yesterday, and I was out in it all day. My spring flowers are looking rather beaten down this morning but not as much as yesterday.

Their condition is the perfect metaphor for the way I felt when Tuesday was over. Busy, busy day in Concord.

My critter collection got a nice bath, though.

After our committtee work session, we took our Admin. Asst. out for lunch. The restaurant is conveniently located next to the tire company we use, so while I was eating and socialising they were replacing my snow tires and rims with my regular tires and rims. And changed the oil.

Some former committtee members joined us, so it was a mini-reunion. One of them is my dogs' best friend, he would always bring dog bones for them (and sometimes chocolate or cookies for me!)

He presented me with a plastic bag of half a dozen little treats for the girls. When I got home, distracted and downtrodden and drenched, I carelessly placed them at the edge of the kitchen counter.

After I fed the girls their supper I realised that the baggie had disappeared. I instantly knew that Jewel had made off with it and devoured the contents.

I found the evidence under the dining table, shredded.

It, too, is a metaphor for what Tuesday did to me!

Our world is a noisy place these days, especially in the mornings. This one began with our head-banging robin knocking on the windows, causing the dogs to bark like mad. At dawn the phoebe started in...he keeps calling out for his mate but she hasn't shown up yet!

Our spring peepers (little bitty frogs in the bogs) haven't yet begun peeping here at the Lodge. I hear them nearby, though, as I drive the local roads in the evening. So any day now....

Sun is back this morning. More rain expected overnight. Very warm weather on the way!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Musical Monday: Colorado Memories

This is the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School Massacre. Why would this matter to a resident of New Hampshire?

I spent 11 very happy years living in the Centennial State. Our first marital house was situated slightly southwest of Denver, the Mile High City, in the foothills of unincorporated Jefferson County. Our mailing address was Littleton, but in fact Littleton was an incorporated city several miles away, geographically and in other respects. Our sitting room windows framed a fine foothills vista. It was a short stroll to a heron pond and park. Convenient shopping. Lots of the Chap's co-workers lived in the same area, so we very quickly developed an active social life. I was a Junior League volunteer for a while, and worked with various nonprofts, which expanded our circle of acquaintances. However, there was no Episcopal church.

Efforts were sometimes made to incorporate our area. I didn't have very strong feelings about that. I did, however, support the accompanying drive to give our location an official name.

Columbine. Columbine, Colorado.

That's where my novel-writing career began. At the time, the nearest county library was some distance away. Our "local" library was a few blocks away--it did double service as public library and high school library.

The school? Columbine High School.

Its collection was small but adequate. I could find a decent novels, periodicals, books on the writing profession like Writer's Market with listings of publishers and agents. I shared the space with the students. I learned to time my visits in the morning, when they were in classes. Before lunch hour or when the seniors got out.

Before long we were spending part of the year in NH and the UK. We had a strong urge to relocate to the East Coast--specifically the Granite State--for lots of reasons. And it would cut down the Chap's commuting time to England, Ireland, Europe--wherever he happened to be working.

It took us several years to find our perfect NH house. Soon as we saw the Lodge our fate was sealed. We left Colorado 15 years ago. The Chap returned from time to time, for business reasons. I've never been back at all. I always assumed I would eventually, when the time was right.

Five years after leaving the Colubmine massacre took place. I can't forget the horror of that day, wondering about the safety and fate of the children of the neighbourhood where we'd lived. That afternoon the Chap and I were flying down to Washington DC. He pried me away from our television. In every aiport I gravitated to the nearest telly for updates on the story. For me it was a very personal tragedy. Watching it, I decided I didn't want to return.

The tv networks were showing a place I knew so well. I could see the larger, new and improved high school. The media farms--satellite trucks, etc.--were parked in the adjacent Clement Park, where we used to have picnics, right next to the enormous new county library, built several years before we moved away.

This anniversary brings back the agony of that day, the pain and senselessness of the unfolding events.

I didn't know what song to pick for today. Almost didn't. Thought about Boomtown Rats' I Don't Like Mondays but it stirs up too much awfulness and watching the video made me cry.

So I've chosen a song I never much liked that gives a happier outlook on Colorado, by a late great resident of that state. But he lived in Woody Creek, near Aspen, and I lived in the Denver suburbs, which might account for my more nuanced assessment.

Here's my take on Colorado: beautiful and sunny and huge. Mild winters (at least where we lived) with occasionally insane amounts of snowfall. Incredible summers. The exquisite gold of aspen leaves in September. Amazing scenery--as long as you were gazing west, towards the Rockies. Wonderful people. Thriving economy. Suburban sprawl. Landlocked (way too far from any ocean). Arid and far too few trees. Our NH lake cottage seemed so far away. Our flights to London took forever....

And yet, as I said, I was happy there. Possibly because I knew it was a temporary posting, and thus made an effort to enjoy it to the fullest.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Stroll: Raptors & Wild Critters

The past 48 hours have been a whirlwind of activity. Friday afternoon: cookbook meeting. Friday evening: dinner party at neighbour's house, at which I provided dessert for 20. I made my version of "that pear-chocolate-almond thing I fell in love with in my favourite restaurant in Paris." Everybody wants me to put the recipe in the cookbook...except there is no real recipe.

Saturday morning the Chap and I headed out for the annual Discover Wild New Hampshire Day at the Fish & Game Department. It was a great turnout as usual. Saw friends and F&G staffers and supporters and at least one legislative colleague.

Officer Dog was there. Man in uniform, dog wearing a law enforcement badge. What's not to love?

Usually I stalk Smokey the Bear until I get my photo op with him, but I was a girl with a mission and our time was limited. I did see him, he was constantly surrounded by little kids.

I was there to see the NH School of Falconry and NH Falconers Association display and to speak with--interrogate--some of the experts. As usual, it was a very popular exhibit, but I was able to chat with one of the falconers at length. The male protagonist in my novel is a falconer, therefore I've been studying 17th century falconry methods and practises. It hasn't changed much in all those years. And of course I photographed the many magnificent birds.

Thinking deep thoughts.

"Planning to post this picture on your blog, are you?"


Hood-wearing gyrfalcon. His handler was the one I spoke with. The hood is calming--with so many people around, the birds can get stressed. But this was the only hooded bird I saw.

Birdy bling. Close up of jesses and bells.

"I'm a bird of prey, can you tell? Pretty scary, right?"

We always stroll over to the ridge for the wonderful view along the Merrimack River to the Capitol City. The gold dome of State House is visible at the right.

My other favourite display is the NHTA stuffed critter exhibit. Families congregate here, identifying the animals they recognise, and learning about the ones they've never actually seen in real life.

A red fox.

Bobcat threesome.

I otter jump on you.

We hastened from F&G headquarters to our town library, which was hosting the New Hampshire Library Association meeting. We were panelists for an afternoon discussion on how we funded and built our new library. I explained about the case statement used for grant writing and local PR and the Get Out the Vote Efforts. The Chap covered the feasibility study. Lots of Q&A.

We raced home to prepare the appetisers for our 2nd dinner party in 24 hours, with a group of friends from church.

After all this activity, I'm having a quiet day but I hope a productive one.

There's lots of this going on in my gardens:

Thanks for stopping by. For other strolls, please go here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Return of the Phoebe

More than the robin (we do see them in winter), more than the purple finch (our state bird), the phoebe's return is the hallmark of spring. The male returns first...the female turns up either on the same day or the next. Haven't seen her yet, but I'm watching all the time.

He's flitting about the property, squawking "Phoebe! Phoebe!"


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tongue Between Teeth

One of those weeks when my daily schedule alternates with matters of church and of state. Several meetings yesterday. A long hearing today. Meetings again tomorrow.

When I mention my legislative work here, I describe what I did but typically nothihng of my feelings or opinions about what I did, beyond the generic or mundane. I'm learning how divisive and disappointing politics on non-political blogs can be. Even when I do tiptoe (gingerly) into the politcal, I strive to depict it in terms of activity, not ideology.

Ditto for religion.

I happen to hold elective office. What I do under that gleaming gold dome does not and will not define me. I'm a career writer, a voracious reader, a congenital gardener, a naturalist in many senses of the word.

This was a rare Wednesday off, post-Crossover. The House was not in session. And yet I voluntarily spent the entire day--from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.--in Representatives Hall. Yes, I surrendered an entirely free day that might have been spent writing or gardening (or both). Or catching up on myriad authorly or diocesan responsibilities and completing numerous pending registrations with approaching deadlines.

There's been a lot of political activism on view today--4 high profile events at the State House from early morning into the evening. Representing 4 different issues. (The local media focussed on only 2 of them.) I learned a lot about my state, its residents, their concerns and diverging realities and how massively in conflict they can be.

Today I honestly didn't know whether to pity or to envy the people for whom every issue comes pre-coloured in black or white. I've got to admit that lots of the comments that resonated the most with me were from the ones I'll call the "grey-sayers."

I came home to a garden of nodding yellow daffodils and sprouting purple hyacinths.

And now...a few restful hours, re-charging my inner battery here on the sofa with warm, slumbering beasts and my American Idol-obssessed spouse. Followed by a night of--I hope--uninterrupted sleep. And back to the Capitol City tomorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Musical Monday: The Dog Song

You've already seen him, haven't you?

Bo the Portuguese Water Dog, the White House's canine inhabitant.

I keep calling him Bo-bama.

Please note that he's black and white--like Ruth and Jewel. To say we're chuffed is putting it mildly. But now they're after me to get them some paper flower leis like his.

In honour of Bo here's The Dog Song by Nellie McKay, a perfect description of how dogs enhance our lives. Such a fun tune! The morning after seeing this very Letterman performance, I ran out to buy her debut album...been a fan ever since.

Woof woof!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Stroll: Welcome, Happy Morning!

My little daffodils opened up this morning. Perfect timing!

Bunnies bearing gifts.

I bought these painted wooden eggs in Warsaw, a favourite souvenir from our stay in Poland. I picked out the woven sweetgrass basket in the old market in Charleston, SC.

At church, a forest of spring flowers decorated the altar...their scent was heavenly!

Another bagpipe encounter. One of our parishioners piped for us.

And the Bishop presided at our Easter service.

It was a most festive and joyous occasion...the church was packed! Afterwards we had a delicious brunch in our Undercroft.

We're having a blustery and chilly day, but the sunshine warms our spirits.

Wishing all my visitors a wonderful Passover and Eastertide. Thanks for stopping by today. For more Sunday strolling, head this way.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Caught in the Act

Redwing Blackbird...

...sunbathing on the deck.

Stumpy the chipmunk raiding a bird feeder.

I arrived home between 6:30 and 7 p.m. last night after 9 hours of voting the budget and other money bills recommended by Finance Committee or Ways and Means. I missed the Maundy Thursday service at church. Mine consisted of listening to Disc 2 of Jesus Christ Superstar, the last supper scenes to the flogging scene, during my drive to and from the State House.

But we're attending tonight's Good Friday service.

It's a morning in a million, and I'm planning to spend it in my garden. The week's progress on the book will briefly stall, I've got itchy fingers and can't wait to get them dirty. (Only I'll be wearing my gardening gloves.)

Just a few lumps of snow remain here and there, in shaded places near the house and in the foest. But my bulbs are about to burst. It's warm and sunny.

The greatest proof that I should be working in my garden is audible rather than visual--the chittering of redwing blackbirds coming from the lakeshore in front of the house, and the distant quacks of the buffleheads, and all the other tweets and whistles and chirps.

The annual spring symphony is well under way, and when I'm in my garden I get to hear it in surround-sound!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Tartan Day at the Capitol

Tartan Day in NH was officially on the 6th of April, by gubernatorial proclamation. However, the House wasn't in session that day, so we celebrated it today, with a little help from the School of Scottish Arts (its director was Queen Elizabeth's piper), the St. Andrew's Society of New Hampshire, and a distinguished visitor from Scotland. I was sporting my McCallum plaid, as usual.

The pipers assemble in the antechamber.

A quick sporran check before the start of festivities.

Piper piping.

We were honoured by the presence of the Lord Provost of Glasgow...Mr. Bob Winter, visiting NH in his official capacity. He made some charming remarks.

After his brief address, he was presented with a couple of jugs of NH maple syrup.

He presented NH with Scotch whisky. The really good stuff. (No question about who got the best in that exchange!)

In addition to the bagpipes, the dance students performed a Highland Reel. We also had some fiddle playing, as seen in this video:

We started the day's legislative activity in a time warp, because procedurally we hadn't adjourned from the March 26th session, meaning that in legislative time we were still stuck on March 26th. And we had to stay there for the purpose of reconsidering a particular controversial anti-discrimination bill that we had killed on the 26th, at the end of a long day. So for the next 3-plus hours some 15 amendments were proferred and debated. There was a late attempt to table the bill. And to indefinitely postpone it. All motions were voted down. At long last it was time to vote on the bill...it passed by a single vote! (Should I take credit? I was on the prevailing side....) I confidently predict that said bill is Dead on Arrival in the Senate and will never, ever make it to the Governor's desk.

By then I was wondering what had happened to that bottle the Lord Provost brought with him. I was ready for a wee, or not so wee, dram. And I don't even like Scotch!

Then we adjourned from the March 26th session, and hey, presto, it was April 8th. By then it was 2 p.m. and we were all starving so we recessed for lunch. I went with my regular lunch gang to the Thai place across Main Street. I ordered a starter, fried squid rings with a spicy vinegar-y dip.

Back into Reps Hall at 3:05 to begin the battle of the biennial budget, aka House Bill 1. There were a handful of amendments, and an effort to table, but we passed it. (By more than a single vote, I might add.) Tomorrow we take up the "trailer" bill, aka House Bill 2, which contains all the revenue mechanisms that fund the budget. Things like taxes (ooooh) and fees (double ooooh) and licenses (triple oooooooh) and tolls (quadruple oooooooooh) and raiding the Rainy Day Fund (actually, that shouldn't upset anybody too much...if these aren't rainy days, I don't know what is.)

I've had an intermittent headache all week long, and I'm starting to think it's budget-induced. Here's hoping that after we pass these bills over to the Senate, the ache will vanish.

Got some writing done. Think I hit my quota, or damn near.

Here at the Lodge we dined on gratin dauphinoise last night and therefore had the angel hair pasta and fresh pesto tonight. I only ate a little, 'cause I'd had lunch not that many hours earlier.

The full moon is spectacular tonight.