"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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Holiday Weekend

Our time at the lake was relaxing. The Chap managed to do a few useful things about the cottage. I did a lot of reading and some exploring and discovering.

At the corner of the cottage, a nest for future phoebes.

Down at the dock, future blueberries.

The Saturday night sunset turned the lake golden.

We were watching The Illusionist and I repeatedly asked the Chap to pause the DVD so I could rush outside to photograph the sunset, from gold to pink to lavender.

Yesterday I had my first sighting of Walter, my pet fish. Within 5 minutes of seeing him, I was in the Author-mobile, motoring to the nearby shop for worms. He's a small-mouthed bass, but he'll eat any kind of worm I toss to him, even if they say "trout" on the container.

Yesterday the Motor Ship Mount Washington made her maiden voyage down our bay.

Then back up the bay. A couple of hours later, down again and then up.

Not long after that, we watched the loon fishing in the cove just to our south.

On my Sunday night sunset watch, I caught some neighbours returning to home port in their antique wooden Chris Craft.

Today, Memorial Day, the Chap installed our flagpole down at the boat house. Ruth was attentive to the process. Jewel was keeping her eye on our neighbour, who was chatting on his cellphone outside one of their cottages.

The Stars & Stripes.

Ruth loves being at the lake. She loves riding in the car also.

To me, her expression says, "My other car is a Mercedes, too!"

When we reached the Lodge, a scarlet male tanager was here to welcome us back.

Busy week ahead. Good thing I'm so well rested!

Saturday, May 28, 2011


We headed up the road a few miles to our favourite Lakes Region Mexican restaurant for some sabor Latino. A little something to wash down chips & salsa, followed by mole enchiladas. ¡Muy sobroso!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sunshine & How We Use It

The sunshine and blue skies returned yesterday, bringing warmth and brighter spirits to our corner of New England. Here in the Lodge construction zone, and on my round of errands downtown yesterday, everyone was in a soaring mood.

Here's one sun worshipper.

In other dog news....On the night before last, sometime after midnight, we were wakened by Ruth & Jewel, who had leapt up from their beds and run out to the screened porch. In the distance, coyotes were yelping in that strange way they have (which we've only heard here a couple of times in 17 years.)

Ruth and Jewel started with whining and sharp barks. Then they echoed or mimicked the coyotes' trilling cries almost identically, joining in the wild dog chorus. It freaked us out to hear our sweet and loving girls make such sounds, completely in tune with their inner coyote.

We called them back inside and closed the connecting door to the porch. The girls settled down on their soft, well-stuffed beds like the domesticated creatures they are, and went back to sleep.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


After a wonderful full-family weekend at the cottage, we returned to the Lodge, a portion of which is now a construction zone.

We are undergoing yet another bathroom re-modelling and renovation project, and work started bright and early on Monday--yesterday. Well...early, anyway. No such thing as "bright" in the upper reaches of the Northeast.

Yesterday was demolition day and appliance and fixture and baseboard removal and patching and adding a ceiling over the laundry enclosure and bumping out its front wall and pulling up the flooring.

Today was priming and some paint edging and re-doing the wiring for the new light fixture and I'm not entirely sure what else because I try not to be too obnoxiously curious, while at the same time keeping up with progress.

And I was on a conference call which lasted nearly 2 hours.

And for a little while, the sun shone for the first time in about a fortnight, and temperature soared to 80 degrees. It didn't last...the rain clouds and raindrops soon returned, and the air cooled.

I made the most of the dry spell to prune the giant forsythia (something I've been meaning to do for oh, 3 years) and the other one and the wisteria. I also cut away some remaining dead wood on my rugosas. The roses are so leaved out, they are loving all the rain. So, alas, are the weeds.

In the front yard there's a very young, almost a baby chipmunk that I love to watch. It hops about like a teeny tiny kangaroo as it learns how to live the chipmunk life. I call it Roo. It won't be long before the painted turtle females return on their annual nest-digging and egg-laying pilgrimage.

After the Chap came home and just after I (finally) started my ballet workout, he let the dogs inside. I've never done the workout with them in the house before. They came racing downstairs to see what I was doing. Ruth was soon distracted by the favourite chew toy. But Jewel always wants to be as near me as possible. So when I stretched out upon the floor for the series of stretches (which work the abdominals, the calves, the thighs, the bum), my crazy dog lay down on her back right next to me, legs raised as if she was copying my movements. She stayed there until I was nearly done. I could hardly concentrate for laughing--which is also good for the muscles! What a silly girl.

News from tornado-ravaged Joplin, Missouri is so heartbreaking...and in many ways inspiring. The strength of those affected by the disaster is not only uplifting, it represents the best of the human spirit in the face of nature's harshness. I've not yet donated...something we tend to do after the initial heavy flow of donations subsides somewhat.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sun-less. Still.

Somewhere behind that cloud is one-half or two-thirds of a mountain. I can't quite remember, it's been so long since I've seen the whole thing.

The sun hasn't shone upon these parts--meaning New England--for longer than a week. We've had more than our share of rain, but even without rain the skies are grey, the air is thick with mist or fog, the air is damp and chilly.

We were led to expect a shift this weekend, but now it's looking iffy. Even next week's forecast contains showery days. (But perhaps some sunshine as well. Here's hoping!)

I'm not sure what time the purported Rapture is supposed to occur tomorrow. I'll start and finish the day on my beloved lake and in between have a meeting--at a church--so I'm not much fussed where I am if the event should in fact present itself. I'd rather not be on the highway.

The Chap will be joining us soon. He hasn't had the chance to overnight at the cottage yet.

Last night I finished my cousin's novel. I read the final and very creepy chapters all alone, in a remote cottage. Very brave of me. I confess, I did freak out a little when the reading light over the bed suddenly went out! I assumed the bulb had gone, but in fact it had turned itself off. The timing is highly suspicious.

A piece of history was removed from the hillside this morning--a wooden electrical pole on the adjacent property that was put in place in 1936. Our neighbour remembers when it was installed. The Electric Co-op has been here all morning, cutting trees and branches and running the chipper and taking down the pole and putting up the new pole and re-hanging cables and wires. They thought they'd have to cut my power here, but they didn't.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend. If you have sunshine, make the most of it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The White Devil

In my family, we make books like dogs have fleas. (Not my dogs, I hasten to add, they are entirely flea-less.) Novels, memoirs, biography, literary criticism, translations, poetry.

Last week my first cousin's second novel The White Devil was published. As you can tell from the photo, it's an absorbing read. I'm oblivious to the black and white devil dog on my left, and the small vampire-like creature on my right.

Is it mad, bad and dangerous to mount a play about Lord Byron at Harrow School? Buy it and find out!

Just like his first, A Good and Happy Child, it has received stellar reviews.

Here's a sampling:

“Gripping. . . . [A] disturbing gothic thriller.” (Publishers Weekly starred review)

“The White Devil is part ghost story, part murder mystery, part coming-of-age tale, part romance. It’s a delightful cocktail. Justin Evans’ writing is crisp, his storytelling vigorous, his sense of the uncanny pitch perfect. And he’s written a wonderfully creepy book.” (Scott Smith, author of A Simple Plan and The Ruins)

“The White Devil is an intelligent, bristling ghost story with a stunning sense of place, a uniquely frightful spirit, and a band of absolutely charming heroes-Byronic and otherwise. You’ll dread reaching the end-while flipping the pages furiously.” (Gillian Flynn, author of Sharp Objects and Dark Places)

“The White Devil is a page-turning tour de force. Both a thoughtful and learned homage to the ghost story, and a clever and compelling rethinking of the genre, this is an amazing, frightening, and believable novel. I loved it.” (David Liss, author of The Devil's Company )

“[A] crackling literary mystery . . . Harrow itself contains Shirley Jackson levels of gloomy passages and dark secrets. Smart, scary, sexy, and gorgeously written to boot.” (Booklist starred review)

During one of our stays in London, some years ago the Chap and I took the train to Harrow-on-the-Hill to visit Justin, then enrolled at Harrow. Reading the book reminds me of the visit, and my impressions of the school and the village.

If you want to know more about the genesis of the novel, visit Justin's website.

Although most of the characters are teenagers, I feel I should point out that this is not a book for the extremely squeamish or the intensely prudish. (Your basic sex and violence warning!)

I can't wait to see what he comes up with next!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sheep! Wool! Dogs!

Despite rainshowers, which alternated between drizzle and downpour, I spend much of the day at the New Hampshire Sheep & Wool Festival, sponsored by the NH Wool Growers Association. I regularly attend--rain or shine--but missed it the past couple of years due to scheduling conflicts or travel or whatever. I wasn't about to skip it this year!

I met many sheep, and watched the sheep-herding demo and the sheepdog trials. I also photographed many, many beautiful Border collies.

And I purchased some beautiful hand-spun, hand-dyed 100% woollen yarn.

Damp but happy, I returned to the Lodge, and am now cuddling with my own black & white dogs.

To view my entire festival photo album on Facebook (28 photos!) please click here.

Another blog post coming tomorrow....Really!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Indoors & Outdoors

I over-winter 2 passion flower varieties inside the Lodge. This one, a hybrid, opened today. The other, species passiflora, is the type I've known from childhood and has yet to produce buds, but it's nearly 3 feet tall now, covered with leaves, and resembles a jungle vine growing on its tuteur. I could move it onto the deck but for now I'm enjoying it inside the Lodge.

I'm about to head outdoors to plant 2 roses: Camieux (striped gallica) and Louise Odier (pink Bourbon) plus 3 perennials, and install the deer barrier netting all around the large front bed of antique roses. It's the sort of grey, cool day when the dreaded and evil black flies should be in abeyance. Here's hoping.

All of our technicolour birds put on a spectacular show throughout the day. I miss then, and all the spring flowers, when I'm at the lake cottage, from whence I returned on Wed. I'll probably stick here until mid-week, just to soak in all the beauty!

We have a dinner party tonight. The annual Sheep & Wool Festival continues through tomorrow at the vast fairgrounds west of Concord. Sheep dog trials! Hand-spun, hand dyed yarns.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Flyers & Flora

At the Lodge we've got 3 male orioles zipping about, singing and preening for the benefit of a single female.

These grosbeaks, however, seemed to have paired up. I think it's a lunch date.

There's at least one other pair and I think a stray male. He should post a personal: "Single B&W Red-Chested Bird Seeks Mate."

We also have a single loon on the little lake. He's been rather quiet, but I'm sure he'll soon be making his looon-y singsong call.

I'm picking lots of bouquets looking like this:

Anemone, bergenia, hyacinth, mini-daffodil, jonquilla simplex, grape hyancinth, and fritillaria (which can't actually be seen.)

This photo doesn't convey the enormity of the yellow monster.

It's about 10 or more feet tall and nearly as broad. Every spring I mean to whack it down to size as soon as the blooms drop off. But then the black flies come out or I'm at the lake and then it's too late in the season....Perhaps this year....

This is one of the lovely azaleas on the walkway at church.

The School for Vestries, held yesterday, was a huge success. I had a blast. It was a long day but such a good one.

This is the day that we officially purchased the Lodge. At the time, we were living at the lake cottage while waiting to take possession of our dream home. (We moved in on 15-16 June). That was 17 years ago. I've spent today in both locations, which seems appropriate.

After church and a Mother's Day chat with my mum and re-potting some plants and herbs (my right hand is fully functional again, though its appearance isn't back to normal) and transferring several houseplants to the deck, I brought the doggie girls to the lake cottage for a few days. We passed through an incredible downpour on the drive up, but by the time we reached the supermarket at the roundabout, the sun was shining and the sky blue. I stopped at my favourite nursery for some herbs and container plants for cookery and for the window planters. Had a lovely, long walk with the dogs. The world is green and the trees newly leafed-out everywhere, but deep in these woods the beeches and birches and oaks have scarcely sprouted. So I have nearly open views to the lake from places where the foliage will obscure it during summer.

The lake is extremely quiet. Few waterfowl. Fewer watercraft.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Current Events

Just about the only thing today shares with September 11, 2001 is that I am all alone to react to events in this country and the world, I was wakeful most of the night watching breaking news, and Osama bin Laden is prominently featured in all the reportage.

That terrible day nearly 10 years ago tangibly changed my life and the Chap's--what we do, where we do it--but we were not victims. For too many others it represents shattered lives. As a result of decisions and planning by our President and his advisors and the intelligence experts, and the actions of an intrepid cadre of military operatives, the architect of those innumerable losses is now dead. I'm not lacking in imagination, but I never expected this sort of result, achieved in this particular way.

There are still dangers in this world, we've not achieved anything resembling the peace for which I daily pray. But something has happened. Something momentous and meaningful--even if I don't fully understand all that it means. If it comforts those who still mourn and strengthens our nation's capacity to embody democracy, justice, and integrity, I am thankful.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Happy May Day!

I used to assemble a May basket on the first of May, or my mother did, or a neighbour would leave one on our doorstep. Today I collected the flowers but placed them in a vase so they would last and not wilt.

It was a glorious, May-like day, couldn't have been lovelier. We spent the last night of April dining in style with our Friends from the North Country at our new favourite Concord restaurant.

This afternoon I returned to Concord for a meeting. As I departed, the Chap was walking the dogs along our road. They whined and fretted when I drove off in the Author-mobile. Perhaps they intuited that after my meeting ended I'd be returning to the lake cottage without them. Which indeed I did.

I'm here to continue my recuperation from last week's accident, which resulted in scratches, scrapes, bruises, sore muscles, and associated pain. I'm healing, but it requires a lot of effort and restraint on my part. At the Lodge I am constantly tempted to physical activity. Strolling my garden this morning I longed to go after the weeds but couldn't. I even had to be very, very careful picking flowers so I wouldn't re-hurt myself. I wanted to re-pot some houseplants but couldn't risk dirtying my wounds. Around the house are several tidying and scrubbing tasks that need attention. As it happens, I'm the sorriest excuse for a left-hander, all I can do with it is write and sew and knit and eat. My right hand--my strength hand and in many ways my more dominant hand--is the one that is more damaged. I've been struggling to do the simplest things with my left--comb my hair, brush my teeth, open juice bottles or refrigerator doors, pour wine. When I forget and use my right, I accidentally bang a bruise or re-open a cut under the bandages.

I knew I was headed for trouble when this morning I woke from a dream in which I was scouring the shower in our master bathroom. Which is something I dare not do--yet. Much as I would like to.

So in self self-defence I've come to the lake where there's no garden, not much in the fridge, and the shower (plus the rest of the cottage) has gone unused for the past 6 months and is in reasonably good shape. I brought my mandolin because I really should practise, and I think I can without doing any harm. I left Ruth & Jewel at the Lodge because here on the big lake there's no large fenced-in yard so they require a minimum of two walks a day. On leashes. Which I hold in my hand, often my right hand.

While I'm here I will be catching up on reading and writing and some committee work. Something else I can do that doesn't hurt at all (miraculously) is my ballet workout. Within 24 hours of the unfortunate incident I was back at it, and have been every day since.

There's less discomfort every day and the healing progresses, just not fast enough to suit me! I'm a highly impatient patient.