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

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

Friday, July 29, 2005

Feeling Blue...in a Good Way

A large wild blueberry bush grows right beside the lake--the branches hang over the lake. Yesterday afternoon I picked a lot of ripe ones. It's a massive crop this year, and they tasted fab--I know, because I ate nearly as many as I picked, but you'd never know from the bowlful I brought into the house. I didn't even need to boost my takings with huckleberries, which are also ripe and prolific, but which I don't like quite as much.

I'm not a breakfast person...and rarely eat what normal people consider lunch. I'm not that keen on food until much later in the day, although I consume just enough fruit and veg and cheese to keep me going till dinnertime.

But today I indulged in brunch: Blueberry French Toast. I only ever make it when I'm here, in late July, with our home-grown berries.

From bush...

to table!

Last night I read this novel, Good Grief by Lolly Winston. It came out last year, and I rarely read things when they're hot off the press, no matter how much attention and acclaim they might garner. I had an approach-avoidance reaction to the book...from all the reviews, I knew the storyline--a 30-something woman coping with the loss of her husband. I knew it would be gut-wrenching. But from all that I'd heard, I was confident there was more to it.

And indeed there was. One minute I was weeping from the pathos of it all, and an instant later would laugh at a sharp and funny observation. Over and over it happened. This is one of those books that kept me up till the wee hours of the morning, and will stay with me forever. It was tragic, it was hilarious, it was all too believable and Sophie's world was so intricately observed and so recognisable.

There's a problem with this book that has nothing to do with craft or artistry. This is the nightmare scenario for any blissfully married person. Plus, it's damned hard to read when all alone. I kept wishing my husband was right there with me, so close I could reach out and touch him, to make sure he was still there. Of course, if he had been, I wouldn't have laughed and sobbed aloud the way I did.

It was an extremely memorable and satisfying read. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

As U2 might say....

"It's a beautiful day--ay--ay!"

Lakeside living at its finest.

Enough work--housecleaning, novel writing--to make me feel virtuous. A refreshing afternoon swim and bathe. Reading on the dock, and for once it wasn't too hot to sit there a good long while. The phone started working--my husband was finally able to phone me, after 24 hours of not being able to. (I could call out, he just couldn't call in.)

Plus, I discovered that my hat survived the storm!

I have this straw hat, part of my clothing collection here at the lake. It's been here 10 years, 15 years? Longer? The perfect hat, for me. The straw is neither too dark or too pale--exactly right. The brim is nice and wide. It fits comfortably. The black grosgrain band matches my swimsuit.

I left it outside yesterday, before the storm rolled in. At some point in the day I shed it and hung it on the metal hook protruding from a tree down by the dock. Then I forgot to bring it inside with me. The gale force winds blew it off the hook, but it fell straight to the ground. I guess was so weighted down by rainwater that it didn't blow away.

Today I found it lying safely at the bottom of the tree, sun-dried. The brim is curled up too much on one side, but it'll re-shape itself in time. I don't know how many times that hat has fallen into the lake, when I'm leaning over to check the thermometer, or looking at a fish, or the wind catches it and carries it into the water. It's none the worse for the occasional bath.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sunshine and Storms

The heat intensified...there was a steady breeze, but not a cooling one.

I finished off Snobs, which I greatly enjoyed. Then I continued writing my new chapter and got at least a 1/4 of it finished.

I tidied the place a bit, just in case some friends came to visit in their big boat. No such luck--probably the dire weather reports kept them off the lake today.

We have a lot of old stuff here, family relics. This deer trophy has been around a long time--there are photographs of it dating from the 1930's. I'm fairly sure it would be dead of old age by now, and reckon he's lucky to be so well-preserved and so much loved. At least by me. He's my friend.

I know how to wind the antique clock, but I admit it took me years to work up the nerve. With all this weaponry, we ready to handle any trouble that might come along....

About 4 o'clock the dark clouds rolled in. The sky went green, then black--I could see the weather before it got here. The wind picked up, waves started rolling in off the lake, and soon it was raining horizontally--at times I had to close all the windows on the lake side of the house, where the weather was coming from. I did my workout during the storm--standing in front of the open porch door. It was like being in a comfortably cool wind tunnel, because the temperature was dropping rapidly and drastically. A lightning strike came very close. I don't know how near this house it hit--the light and the boom were simultaneous--but it definitely set off the burlar alarm at a neighbour's cottage.

The rain stopped, the wind died down. No sooner had I opened up the windows than phase 2 started up. More wind, rain, heavy waves, whipping trees--all that dramatic stuff, but a lot less thunder and lightning.

The storm moved on pretty quickly, and the skies began to clear. The sunset over the mountains was absolutely gorgeous--a really interesting, atypical reddish colour towards the end, just before dark.

It's now as quiet, dark and silent as a tomb around here. One would never know how violent an afternoon it was! Virtually no boat traffic on the lake tonight.

And no telephone service either. Something to do with the storm, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Chapter Finished, Another Chapter Begun

I achieved my writing goal for the day: completing an interminable chapter. It's not a long chapter, but it's taken a long time to write it. What's so odd is that it takes place in contemporary London...and all the day long, London is in the headlines, and not for the best of reasons. So I must constantly disassociate my fictional world from the real world.

After finishing the chapter, I started the next one. Even though I didn't get much farther than a chapter heading and a couple of paragraphs condensing the upcoming action.

Other things done today...I swam. It was awfully warm today, quite oppressive, and the 79 degree water felt nice. I'm sure it helped cool off my brain for the final push to the end of that chapter! I wanted to write on the dock, under the umbrella, while writing, but it was too hot and since the dock faces west, the afternoon sun wasn't so friendly.

I took photos of the baby phoebes in the nest. The parents were freaking out.

I shot one of the enormous spiders that hangs around under the eaves. They make huge and extremely beautiful webs, which I hate to disturb.

This web was strung across the red wheelbarrow.

I read some magazines. Listened to the BBC news on the Internet. Started the Julian Fellowes' novel--my reward for a good day's work.

I made a pizza. (Warning to the squeamish: you're about to see actual anchovies!)

I enjoyed a sunset.

I watched Rescue Me.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Day Away

I spent most of today off the lake.

This was the one day this week when I had meetings on my calendar. So I had to dress up, rub on some make up, and gather up my papers and my portable keyboard and the digi cam and other necessities.

I visited the nonprofit whose website I'm administrating to photograph the executive director and her chocolate lab. The dog wasn't in the office today, so I could only took pictures of the human.

Between appointments I made some phone calls on my cellphone in my car. None was very productive. I was bummed to find out my hairdresser isn't open on Monday, thus I couldn't book my much-needed appointment. Let's just say it's a really good thing I'm hiding out on the lake right now.

Next I headed into the capital city. I went to the bookstore to buy Julian Fellowes' English upper class novel Snobs and a magazine featuring an article about a friend of mine.

Then I had a meeting to organise a strategic planning retreat for another nonprofit.

After that I went to the supermarket to pick up a few items for home, and a few items I needed here.

I stopped by The Lodge (our house) to drop off the groceries, hug the husband and kiss the dogs--and vice versa--and sigh over the empty phoebe nest, visible from our bedroom window. All 4 birds in the second brood flew off just this morning. I'd hoped for one more glimpse of them before they started their adult lives, but no such luck. That nest was a busy place--2 broods, 4 birds in each brood. That's 8 new phoebes created by the phoebe couple who faithfully return to the same nesting place.

I changed out of my city clothes and set out for the lake cottage in different garb driving a different car than I'd begun with so many hours earier.

On the way up, I spotted two intriging signs by the roadside.

One, at a small seasonal garden center, advertised the "ANNUAL SALE." I wasn't sure whether that meant this was the yearly sale, or whether all the annual plants were on sale. Either way, it's good news for a dedicated gardener like me!

The other sign, in the village, was hand painted. "HEATED APARTMENT FOR RENT," it stated, with a telephone number underneath. I thought about all the people who come to this lakeside resort only in summer, and might fail to understand the importance of heat, particularly on this, one of our hotter days.

Our summer-only residents don't see the lake in wintertime, when it's frozen so thick that small aircraft can land and take off at the seasonal airstrip at the tip of the bay. And when the ice fishermen drive their 4x4's across the surface of the lake. At that time of year, a heated apartment would be very appealing!

But planes land on the bay in summertime too. Like this one, right in front of my house:

I arrived here just in time to enjoy a gorgeous "Golden Pond" sunset.

Tomorrow I'm going to have to write. A lot. I need to make some progress on the work-in-progress. Otherwise, I'll have to stop using that term to describe it!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bright and Breezy

the boat headed down the bay
In the morning I was puttering around, taking in quantities of caffeine, when I heard the unmistakable sound of the big boat going by. So naturally, I grabbed the camera.

I must have dozens--hundreds?--of identical photos. The thrill of seeing the huge white vessel passing our dock never fades. It chugs down the bay to its southernmost port of call, then about 30 minutes later chugs back up the bay, as illustrated by the photo. Sometimes the captain blasts the horn.

It was one of those days--sunny, crystal blue sky, cooling breeze--that you want to share with somebody. And I did. My husband came up for the afternoon, bringing along the Sunday paper and news of our dogs and our nesting phoebes (there's a nest at this house, too, on the side of the screen porch.)

cooling off my feet

We went swimming.

our water thermometer
The water was still 78 degrees. Trust me. In this (deceiving) view of the thermometer it looks like mid-70's, but that's because I had to lay it on the dock. The lake felt so nice that we stayed in till we had prune fingers.

We had something to celebrate--well, mostly I did--so we'd made a reservation at a fave restaurant 15 minutes up the road. It's only open in summer, so dining there at least once during the season is an annual ritual. Sometimes we manage two visits, if we take some friends or family along. The specialty is Asian cuisine, all varieties: Philipine, Korean, Indonesian, Indian, Japanese. Exquisitely cooked and beautifully presented. There's no liquor licence, so the diners bring their own wine--we carried along a nice bottle somebody had given us. Because it was my party, I picked up the tab.

Late into the evening, I sat on the porch, in the dark, listening to some cd's I hadn't spent time with in years. R.E.M. rarities and B-sides. Elton John. Joe Jackson. It was utterly silent--out on the lake, I mean. In between discs, I listened to the water lapping against the shore for long periods of time. All the weekenders had left, and hardly any boats went by, and those that did were running quietly.

A really lovely day and a wonderful night, exactly the right amount of companionship and solitude.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

I know what I did this summer....

I've spent an unprecedented amount of time at my lake house.

my front yard

In fact, on this inaugural blog day, I'm here. This is place where I feel most creative....It's where stories often find me--or vice versa. Characters vist me. Inspiration strikes me, usually quite gently. I've sometimes wondered how many words, not to mention chapters, I've written while sitting on the screen porch, with its view of water and mountains. Or lounging with laptop or pad and pen on the sofa, which faces the fireplace, watching the flames dance.

The drive to get here takes about 45 minutes. Today on my way up (yes, up--it's due north from my other house on a significantly smaller lake) I was playing the Two Rooms cd, on which a variety of musicians cover the songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The title comes from their early working history: Bernie would hole up in one room, writing a set of lyrics, and deliver them to Elton (Reg, that was) who composed the music in another room. It occurred to me that I nearly always write my books in two houses. And, in fact, in two different rooms in each house!

As soon as I arrived, I refreshed the hummingbird feeder and was soon rewarded with the sight of a tiny, grateful bird. And I re-wound the antique clock on the mantel so I'll know what time it is...not that it really matters this week!

This morning I didn't take a shower, on purpose, because I wanted to bathe in the lake--an old-time tradition. Wearing the the bathing suit that has served me so well for the past 10 years, I headed for the dock with bar of soap in hand (a non-polluting 99 & 44/100ths per cent pure variety) and towel over my shoulder. I found that water a balmy 78 degrees, "lukewarm" by my definition. Not being a native of this harsh northen clime, I'm hyper-sensitive to the water temperature! (We keep a floating thermometer in the water.) I emerged clean and refreshed.

As the afternoon wears on it's becoming breezy, so quite a bit chop on the lake.