"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

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Parting Shots

The seminary daffodils the Chap spotted yesterday.

My shot of the Empire State Building, taken from one of the streets in the neighbourhood of the hotel.

The Chap's more distant view of the Empire State from Brooklyn Bridge.

Here I am heading off the conference after-party. We were encouraged to wear our habitual writing attire, hence the flannel loungewear.

The party was boisterous, a laugh riot. We played a diabolical quiz game. I wasn't on the winning team but as they say it's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game. The difficulty level of the questions was off the charts. It was BYOB. When the Chap was shopping for provisions earlier, he picked out a Mojito in a bottle for me. A bold and interesting complement to cold medication and ibuprofen!

I had just left the party suite and was waiting for an elevator when security arrived on the scene--presumably there were complaints about noise. I'm not surprised. We were really loud.

When I see them again, I must refrain from telling my canines that this hotel caters to their kind. Yes, there's a Jet Set Pets program. I cannot conceive of bringing Ruth and Jewel to New York with me, though this suite of ours is large enough to accomodate them comfortably. This may be the largest room we've ever had in NYC, and I'm not even counting the kitchen part of it.

We've never stayed this far downtown on any of our trips, and it's been interesting being in a different area than our usual--Lexington and the 40's (the Waldorf) or else Times Square environs. The bells from what I assume to be a monastery--either the Franciscans or the Capuchins--have been a welcome grace note, quite literally. I'm worried about those Capuchins, they've got no windows and the building looks so soul-less. But I'm sure it's really not!

Speaking of soul, for one of our meals we had Soul Food. Pulled pork barbecue, fried okra, collard greens.

I'm anticipating another pleasant train trip tomorrow afternoon. I look forward to collecting my darling doggies at the end of it. I've missed them a lot more than I've missed being surrounded by heaps of snow. Somehow I must re-accustom myself--dare I hope that significant melting has occurred? And I've got to take up my mandolin again and make up the lost practice days!

Oh. And I've still got that novel to write.

No Biz Like Show Biz

Our first conference speaker yesterday morning was a writer/producer on the soap opera Guiding Light news flash! which I happen to watch faithfully every single weekday. (I'm fairly certain I've never made that admission in this space before today. Now you know my secret.)

I record the morning broadcast and the Chap and I watch it together in the evening after the nightly news. And, as I admitted to Jill Hurst, even when we leave the country I tape the final 15 minutes of each episode, to keep up with what's going on.

Attending her presentation was my only official conference-ing yesterday. The Chap and I had a brunch date with my dear, dear friend, an actor/playwright/musician whom I've known and loved for most of my life. Our reunions are infrequent--because I don't come to NY as often as I should--but so very valuable.

During our meal we talked very little of the past, and not at all of productions we did together. We spoke of our present lives, and our parents and our siblings and our other relationships. Books we'd read (or not read), plays we've seen (or not seen).

He is a founding member and sometime performer and playwright for an off-Broadway theatre located in the Garment District. Last time we were here, it had just moved into its new location, still partly under construction. It's thriving now, and of course we wanted to see it again. So we walked four blocks north and one block west and there we were. The tech crew was setting up for the first preview, a sell-out. (Show opens next week, it stars Austin Pendleton).

Here's the outside of one of several performing spaces.

Posters for past productions.

We parted ways in the lobby. The Chap and I returned to our hotel. I succumbed to my dread disease, sleeping away the rest of the day. He went walkabout, down to Chelsea Market and elsewhere, and returned with photographs of daffodils blooming on the grounds of General Theological Seminary (I know priests and bishops who attended GTS) and ornamental fruit trees in flower.

I'm back to attending workshops today. The Chap headed to the Brooklyn Art Museum and hopes to fulfill his ambition of walking the Brooklyn Bridge.

Lunch break is nearly over, time to return to the ballroom to acquire more publishing savvy and writing inspiration.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Hero

This is such a great conference that I haven't a lot of time for extracurricular activities--although that will change in 15 minutes time when we meet my actor pal for brunch.

One thing on my "wish list" for the trip was to view a portrait of the duke about whom I'm writing, the male protagonist of my novel. He's the husband of the lady whose face decorates my sidebar. It's not only her story I'm writing--it's his, too. And theirs.

I've got a black and white print of the portrait, painted by the same artist who did all three of those duchess paintings, which the Met kindly sent to me. But I'd really like to see the full-colour version in all its glory, showing the duke as a proud young man.

The Chap was planning to visit the Whitney Museum yesterday to look at their Hopper paintings. I said if was near the Met, and if he had the time, perhaps he might stop in at the desk and find out if my duke's portrait was on display and where it's located. That way, if I had the chance this trip (unlikely) or the next trip (quite definitely) I could pay his grace a visit.

My hero--my husband--not only went to the Met, he embarked upon a major search mission. He was told the painting was hanging, and where it was hanging. But he didn't find it in that location. So he returned to the desk to tell them. He rang up the curatorial department who gave him another location. He didn't find it there, either. Staff members were wandering the museum, as did he, trying to find my duke.

Eventually, on the fourth attempt to direct the Chap, the Information Desk got it right. After more missteps than you could imagine, the quest succeeded. The Chap made numerous photographs for me.

Here is one of them.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Country Mouse/City Rat

I'm trying to be both.

Apologies--another hotel room photo. I'm not likely to forget what country I'm in. It's breezy today, but so far not rainy as threatened.

I walked a couple of blocks this morning with author chums for an off-site breakfast. They ate breakfast, I drank coffee, having consumed my usual banana in the room. The geographic diversity in our group equalled one Australian (who flew in from Oz via the UK), one from the Chesapeake region, a Californian, and me, the New Englander. One is a nominee for a pestigious award, the other is a perennial NYT bestseller (she and I have the same agent), three of us write in multiple genres. We talked of real life (as opposed to the writing life and biz)--family, travels, politics.

Our conference keynote speaker was outstanding. Knowledgeable about so many aspects of the writing trade--playwright, tv scriptwriter (sitcom and drama), college professor, writer for film, and most recently--novelist. In fact, she was the only newbie novelist in the ballroom. Members of this organisation have, on average, published 16 novels. You must publish at least two to qualify for membership.

The morning panel consisted of three literary agents discussing the "breakout career"--as opposed to the "breakout novel".

This particular conference is an annual one, but every other year it's in New York City. I never miss the NY conference, and never fail to get something substantial out of it.

All my previous endeavours and my current profession have a New York nexus. Theatre. Radio-Tv-Film. Publishing.

I've been bouncing in and out of this city since I was a teenager. In my aspiring actress days, I instantly recognised that living and struggling and suffering and starving for Art in this environment was Not My Style. (Other friends made a different choice.) Ditto for the broadcasting phase. I've shown up here from time to time that my agent or an editor might wine and dine me. Or for this writers' conference. But I'm always gladder to depart than I am to arrive.

However...the Chap informed me this morning that there's snow in NH. The Lodge lies in the 4 to 8 inch zone. What's nice about this is that we will probably exceed that historic annual snowfall rate, and make new history, but we ourselves don't have to suffer through it. From that perspective alone, this trip is already worthwhile!

When people say "Did you go South this winter to escape the record snow?" we can reply, "Why, yes, we did. We went all the way to New York."

I'm still chuffed about yesterday's trip. Before air travel became so frustrating (pre 9/11), we'd hop from Manchester NH to LaGuardia and into Manhattan. Since then, we've driven from the Lodge to CT, spent the night and left the car, and taken a commuter train into the City. Coming by train is by far the nicest way to get here.

In addition to conferencing, we're brunching with my dearest (I won't say oldest) actor friend tomorrow. On Sunday we're getting togther with my novelist cousin and his literary agent wife. So I will escape the hotel, and I'll be sure to take the camera along!

A nice surprise about this hotel is the fact that it's sandwiched between a Franciscan monastery and another one here on W. 31st Street. At intervals, above the roar of the city, I can hear bells from one or the other ringing the hour. It's lovely and other-worldly.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

From the Fifth State

This morning I woke to this view.

Now I'm gazing upon this view.

Looking up Seventh Avenue. Madison Square Garden on the left.

Culture shock? Um, yes. Mostly due to the mass of people in the crosswalks, mobs of taxis headed downtown, and the pervasive noise of horns and sirens. It's rush hour in the Big Apple.

I've got a complex relationship with New York City. I won't go into it now, except to say it's an approach-avoidance thing. I'm passionately fond of London, where I spend so much time. My next preference is Paris.

But here I am. Certainly there's no better antidote for a bad case of cabin fever than plopping myself down in the middle of the City that Never Sleeps!

Our schedules have been so hectic of late that when planning our travels we chose the least stressful and hassling journey possible. This morning we boarded a Concord Coach, hopped off at Boston's South Station, walked onto a train.

After a very pleasant 4-hour journey of reading, relaxing, and chatting (in low tones--we were in the Quiet Car) we got out at Penn Station. Walked half a block to the hotel where my conference is sited.

King Kong himself was waiting on the bed, with a friendly greeting attached. And the full pillow menu. Six choices!!

Today I've been in five states: NH, MA, RI, CT, and NY.

I intended to nap during the trip but the view from the window was too interesting. Along the coastal and marshland route through RI and CT I saw a blue heron, raptors, sea ducks, swans, Canada geese, and a flock of turkeys.

It's been nearly 9 years since I took the same trip--in the opposite direction, from NY to Boston, for a different writers' conference. On that day a thick mist enveloped the train and I could hardly see the country I was traversing. Today we travelled under grey skies, but the landscape was clearly visible.

The Chap is out and about, picking up groceries (we have a fully equipped kitchen) and doing a restaurant recce. I told him I'm in the mood for good Italian.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Country Drive

I've just returned from chauffeur-ing my girls to their hilltop B&B. Though I hate parting from them, however temporarily, it's one of my favourite country drives.

I travelled low roads with frost heaves far, far worse than in our neighbourhood, and had to ford a place where a stream had flowed right over the road. The field where I always spot a flock of turkeys in autumn is still snow-covered, so I didn't see any today. There are many horticultural enterprises along the route, big nurseries and small backyard operations, one of which had lost some of their greenhouses to the heavy snow load.

Beyond the greenhouses the road winds up, up, up, to the ridge where the maple sugar houses are. No signs of boiling today, but I did see some old-fashioned sap buckets attached to trees. I was excited to see a huge flock of robins.

After delivering Ruth and Jewel to their caretaker, I wound my way down, down, down, back to farmland. I stopped to photograph a favourite property, a place where I sometimes purchase tomoatoes in summer, leaving my money in the "honesty box."

Can you see spring in this picture?

Look closely at the giant tree. The gilding on that willow is a very promising sign! Willows are always the first to wake up.

On my way home I encountered other signs of spring--on signs.

At the feed and seed store: TIME TO ORDER CHICKS! I'm tempted, after seeing what bounty Nan's have provided for her household.

A couple of miles on, at the garden center: TIME TO PLAN PROJECTS!

From start to finish, my trip took the shape of a a big circle. Or, more accurately, it was a frying pan or skillet-shaped route. A circle with a handle (the road to the kennel).

Although we woke to find a dusting of snow on the ground, now it's just a memory. After a sunny start to the day, it's now gone all cloudy--no, wait, the sun is back!--and the wind is roaring. However, the Lodge thermometer tells me that it's 52 degrees. Melting has exposed a few of the large stones in the wall that surrounds my front rose garden. Progress!

The journey has exhausted me--still under the weather and frustrated by it. And I've so much on my mind. Perhaps that's why a fave Dar Williams song (with John Popper on harmonica and backing vocals) has been playing in my car and in my head all morning:

And I've been running uphill, panting, punching at the air,
Fighting what's been pushing me down, as if it's really there.
And so I asked the light of the day, what's this rush for heaven,
Then I saw a bird fly away, and I could not ask again.

It's on The Beauty of the Rain cd. Very highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bright but Quiet

We've had a series of very bright, sunny days. The winds have departed and the air has been fairly warm--though that's about to change--and melting has occurred.

We've sighted our first flock of robins, on the way to Maundy Thursday service, and even better, the first chipmunk, driving to Easter morning service. Haven't spotted either round here, but it's only a matter of time.

I'm spending my second day mostly in bed, fighting off a mild but bothersome and highly inconvenient bug. It seems really unfair that the one time I have a flu shot, I pick up what seems like a touch of flu. Nothing too dire, it's the sore-throaty, head-achy, muscle-weary, ain't-got-no-energy sort of ailment. I'm so thankful that it waited till after Crossover Week to strike...and because the symptoms didn't materialise till Sunday night, it didn't impair my Easter Day.

Fortunately, an entirely blank schedule on Monday permitted mollycoddling, and today I can take it easy, too. Unfortunately, I must rouse myself for an evening meeting, and have a busy day tomorrow--errands and another meeting.

My enforced lassitude means I'm working on the manuscript. And listening to many very interesting radio programs.

Oh, and I'm breaking in new footwear. I wander about the Lodge in my flannel jim-jams and fleecy dressing gown, wearing a pair of pretty black ballet flats. Better to accustom my feet to new shoes gradually, at home, then by pounding the sidewalks of New York.

One of my Scentimental tree roses has thrown out another vivid and highly scented blossom.

No need to send flowers to this invalid. She grows her own!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Welcome, Happy Morning!

Months in due succession,
days of lengthening light,
hours and passing moments
praise thee in their flight.
Brightness of the morning,
sky and fields and sea,
Vanquisher of darkness,
bring their praise to thee.

Easter Church

Easter Chicks

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Of Bunnies and Belles

Yesterday, as the strong wind blew me towards the entrance of our local shopping mall, I spotted a tall, long-eared white creature standing by the door. It was the Easter Bunny.

The Easter Bunny was having a cigarette break. And it looked So Wrong to me. It was setting a very bad example for the youth of this great state.

The Bunny tossed his butt onto the ground--a litterbug, too!--and entered the mall before me.

I went into a store. I came out of a store. To get to another store I had to pass by the Easter Bunny's garden "hutch"--same location as Santa's "wokshop" at Christmas time.

On the Bunny's lap was a very young screaming child, not at all interested in having his photo taken with the nicotene-scented rabbit.

I averted my eyes and hurried on to my destination.

This morning's paper brought back all the horror of yesterday's encounter.

Same Bunny. Different traumatised child. This infant is only a few weeks old and forced into intimacy with a disreputable rabbit. How sad.

Now here is an extremely reputable, clean-living bunny.

It looks white, but it's really a green bunny, made of environmentally friendy materials. Every night I sleep with this bunny. At regular intervals he goes into the washer and dryer. (Not regularly enough, according to the Chap....)

Our young Southern Belles--Ruth of Arkansas and Jewel of Tennessee--optimistically assume that March means warmer, spring-like weather. So they are beginning to shed what little winter coat they've got.

This afternoon, the Chap and I each took charge of a dog and had a makeover session with combs and brushes. It's only the beginning of grooming season, but already they look very sleek. And they're so much easier and more cooperative than our huskies ever were. They are such gluttons for attention. Grooming equals attention.

While I do not include myself in the belle category, my appearance is greatly improved. After numerous postponements, due to her illness and my mad schedule, I finally managed an appointment with my hairdresser. I now more closely resemble the photograph on this blog, instead of the bedraggled hag I was when I crawled out of bed this morning!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

Last night, after the Maundy Thursday service--which included Foot Washing--

--the altar was stripped for Good Friday.

The Chap and I drove home beneath a magnificent full moon. The clouds moving across it were very dramatic.

Such a blustery day, with high wind warnings till well into the evening. The lights flickered a bit this morning.

I'll be out and about taking care of errands and have my my music lesson. Don't much enjoy being buffeted about but nothing I can do but bundle up.

Today we're seeing the the "lion" face of March.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Promise of Spring

Here's that daffodil I received on Tuesday at the State House. This morning it opened up.

Outside my window it doesn't look much like spring. Not the lavish, colourful sort of spring I've encountered in the UK or below the Mason-Dixon line. But I can definitely feel the change taking place, despite so many feet of snow and the grey dampness.

Because yesterday was Wednesday and the House was in session, we had morning snow, lasting half the day before regressing to sleet and rain.

Another of those long, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. days. I realise how many people in this world work in offices for as long as that, or nearly. Or even longer. But I don't think the average office worker's movements are as restricted as a representative's.

In an office, you can get up from your desk at will, head for the loo at nature's call, chat with colleagues, grab a cup of coffee, stretch your legs, check email.

Sometimes I can do that, too. But most of the time I'm trapped. If a roll-call vote is expected, I must stay in my seat no matter what. When I head for the anteroom or the members' lounge (where the coffee is!), I risk missing an important development on the floor (the the audio from the podium is piped in, but if lots of people are talking it's hard to hear.) I'm not important enough or political enough to be sucked into the wheeling and dealing that apparently happens in the anteroom or the corridors.

As usual, our day's business started oh, so slowly--sometimes we can spend 2 whole hours on only 2 bills. During lunch break, the Majority Office threw a pizza party for our gang on the 3rd floor of the LOB. I picked a table near the window, with friends and young staffers, and watched the snow falling upon Diocesan House, which looked very pretty.

By day's end we'd voted all the House Bills that must cross to the Senate--leaving only the House Resolutions for another time, because they don't pass to the other chamber.

Miraculously, we met our Crossover Day deadline--we didn't have to return today to finish up! For the time being we're recessed until the call of the chair. I don't expect the call for a few weeks.

There were two concurrent receptions last night--one hosted by the insurance industry, another by the automobile dealers' association. I did the anti-social thing and headed straight home.

The Chap and I have been like ships passing all week. He had no evening meetings, and I gladly gave up those two parties in order to have dinner with him.

Tonight we can go to church together, too, for the Maundy Thursday service. There's a soup-and-matzo supper beforehand.

Between now and then, I'm catching up on things neglected all week, confirming appointments and social activities for next week, wrapping up some promo, maybe even writing.

Oh, how I welcome this respite from legislating. Not that I'll be idle. Next week, for change, I'll be almost entirely focussed on my career--I can revel in being a multi-published author in the thick of the ever-volatile publishing industry. And I'll be helping coordiante the diocesan spring event.

But mostly, I'll be thinking about spring!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


My current pose is neither as dramatic or as artful as the female pictured below, but the image expresses the sort of weariness I feel.

And my brain is too empty to create a title for this blogpost!

Yesterday's economic recovery summit was one of the very best meetings I've ever attended. No easy answers, but a lot of energy and determination to succeed. A real meeting of the minds of local officials, state and federal agencies, the Congressman, and those of us from the Legislature.

It was off to the State House this morning for another lengthy pre-Crossover Day session. On the way into Reps Hall, we were each handed a daffodil. Very cheery, seeing them bloom from button holes and lapels. The one I got was tightly furled and had hardly opened by the time I arrived home so many hours later.

Our County Farm Bureau served lunch to the County Delegation and the Environment and Agriculture Committee, over in the Dept. of Agriculture, Markets, & Food. We heard from area farmers about the difficulties they face, the necessity for many of nich and non-traditional farm operations, and the benefits of some of the legislation we passed last year.

They also spoke of the ignorance and unfamiliarity that visiting school classes sometimes display about the source of their food. Even here, in this state! Cows make milk, eggs comes from chickens--but apparently there's very little understanding of this.

From my youth on up I've been on farms. We'd visit relatives who had cows or swine. We had a horse, so I grew up in stables. And for several years we kept milking goats on our property. I remember the hard work (feeding, milking, mucking out stalls) and the rewards (constant supply of fresh milk, handmade cheeses, the animals' companionship.) I found much comfort for my teen angst when sitting in the milking shed with Suzie and Marilyn, my gentle and trusting friends. Thinking back, I still hear the sound of milk hitting the inside of the metal pail....

I feel so fortunate to live in a rural location, with horses up the road, and a mixed herd of Jerseys and Highland Cattle a bit beyond, and fields of "cow corn" in the other direction.

We adjourned about 6 p.m. I could've gone to a FEMA River Study Results presentation. But 1) I couldn't muster the energy and 2) I suppose I can obtain a written report of the preliminary findings and 3) the Chap had back-to-back Board meetings after his day at the office and somebody had to feed the girls their supper!

Not too far from the Lodge, three deer crossed the road in front of me--passing from that field where the cow corn grows to a wooded area on the opposite side. They appeared to be in good shape, considering the harshness of the winter.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I could recount in mind-numbing detail my Irish ancestry--in what is now the Republic as well as the Six Counties. But I shall spare you.

Instead, a couple of favourite photos.

The "secret" castle I always visit at Ballyvaughan

Fungi, the famous dolphin of Dingle Bay.

If you want more: Sights Seen in Eire

This being the first anniversary of Jewel's arrival, here's a quick trip down memory lane: Meet Jewel!

Can't swill Guinness till evening, I'm afraid, I must keep a clear head. I'll be participating in an economic recovery summit in one of my district towns, along with our U.S. Congressman, our State Senator, another State Representative, and many local officials.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

A headline in this morning's paper was not encouraging.

Fortunately it wasn't predictive, it was a report on a trekking trip to Patagonia.

On this, the whitest Palm Sunday I've ever seen, the church was nicely decorated.

You might say our parishioners are ready for anything!

Our priest prepares for our Palm Sunday Snowshoe Procession.

Because of his lovely sermon on olives and olive oil and their connection to Jesus and Gethsemane, in this busy Holy Week--also the week before Crossover Day in the Legislature--I shall think of myself as a little olive and that the pressure being applied to me in coming days will result in good things. I certainly hope so!

The documentary screening yesterday afternoon was wonderful beyond description. I particularly enjoyed speaking with the director, during the Q&A and afterwards. His next project sounds equally fascinating.

Our Saturday Night Flick was The Commitments, which we hadn't seen for year. It's an outstanding film based on Roddy Doyle's delightful early novel. I have a feeling the soundtrack album is about to be repeatedly played at the Lodge or in my car.

We've been on an Irish bender lately. Over recent weeks we've seen Once...in fact, Glen Hansard's performance was the impetus for re-viewing The Commitments 'cause he's in both.

In between those films, we've been watching The Irish R.M., the televised series derived from the Somerville and Ross novels that I adore. Another old favourite.

Our recent choices of entertainment really were unconnected with the fact that it was the run-up to St. Patrick's Day. It just worked out that way.

Don't forget to wear green tomorrow, or you might get pinched!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

No Rest for the Busy

It's a Saturday, so of course we woke to fresh snow. Not a lot, just enough to remind us that winter still has us in its clutches.

Here's a chickadee, patiently waiting for me to stop snapping his picture and start tossing bread and seeds on the ground.

I had planned to shoot some black and white snow scenes today. But the light was such that I can offer up a full-colour photo that looks like b&w!

We hopped into a vehicle and headed to the village. The Chap went to the liquor store. I went to church. (No jokes, please!) My errand was to shoot photos of children's group pre-Palm Sunday/Easter activities. I got a bit involved myself in ice cream making.

This strange orb is an ice cream maker. The outer portion is filled with ice cubes. Embedded in the middle is the container with the future ice cream. The object is to roll it around on the floor until freezing occurs.

Freezing hadn't yet taken place when I left.

The Chap got his hair cut--I watched.

Next, we were off to the town dump. In fact, it is a multi-town dump, serving four towns.

We have mandatory recycling!

I didn't just take pictures, I helped out with some dumping.

This afternoon I'm seeing a movie at the new-ish art cinema in the capitol city. The film, For the Bible Tells Me So" was well-received at Sundance last year (nominee for the Grand Jury prize) and earend various film festival awards.

For several reasons I have personal interest in attending the screening. #1: I was present during a portion of filming--the director and crew showed up at a diocesan meeting/retreat in which I participated. Mind you, I have absolutely no expectation of seeing myself in the final cut. As a former filmmaker myself, I am well aware that it was the most boring footage imaginable. #2: The director will be present for a Q&A afterwards ... #3: as will be my Bishop.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Still in Bloom

My Crown of Thorns plant is still covered with flowers. Very timely, with Palm Sunday two days off, Passiontide and Easter on the horizon.

My own bloom is somewhat faded after a busy week.

Yesterday morning I busily prepared for meetings that I wouldn't even attend, due to the afternoon session of the Legislature. My attendance record at the State House and as Moderator of our diocesan council are both 100%, but a person can't be in two places at once. I have thousands of constituents, who expect me to represent them. The council consists of about 20 persons, and can carry on its business perfectly well without me in the chair.

Still, I had to develop and refine the agenda for the person who was pinch-hitting for me. Because of these necessary tasks, I also had to skip a couple of informational sessions offered yesterday, one on the state retirement system and one on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

I was in Representatives Hall from a little after noon till nearly 6 p.m. It was a shorter session than the previous day yet seemed as long or longer, perhaps because we started later in the day than usual. We fully expected to stay later in the evening as well but got a reprieve. Some controversial bills were on the docket, with long debates, but some good humour along the way and some speedy voice votes.

Today I've got a lunch date, a rarity in my life of late. It's related to diocesan work but my fellow diner is a person of whom I'm so fond and admire so much and it won't feel like work. Afterwards, my mandolin lesson.

Apparently there's rain and or snow in the forecast overnight and early tomorrow. We'd hoped to make it up to the Big Lake, after my hairdresser appointment--looks like another postponement of the cottage trip due to weather.

Squirrels are visiting the Lodge in swarms. Yesterday I counted five red squirrels and a single enormous grey one. I don't mind them so long as they eat the bird food I scatter on the ground and keep away from the hanging feeders.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Elation and Glee

Jewel says:

A new toy! What could be more exciting?

Ruth says:

And spring colours, too! Totally awesome!

MEP says:

Snow is flying and the roads were dreadful this morning. Must be a legislative Session Day....

I arrived at the State House with a personal goal, in addition to voting legislation up or down.

I need a working title for my novel. Yes, the novel I've been planning and writing for lo, these many years. It has had various vague titles along the way, none truly worthy or worth sticking with.

So, instead of doodling during the morning debates, I planned to list any and all potential titles, old and new. I'd create a long list. Then a short list.

Then it came to me--the perfect one. It just leapt into my brain and nestled there. I can't shake it. It's so perfect. So much so I'm not even second-guessing myself. Not yet, anyway.

Of course, this happened within the first 15 minutes of the session. Meaning I had to go back to doodling. So far, I've drawn several shamrocks, a leprechaun holding a shamrook in one hand and a Guinness in the other, a sheep, a rabbit, and a mouse.

When we started to legislate this morning, we had 250 bills to despatch by crossover day--a week from now.

By the lunch break, we were down to 243.

We're cruisin'.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An Opening

Technically this doesn't count as "open water" on my little lake because today's temperatures are cold enough to preserve the glazing of ice on top that formed overnight.

But near the lake's outlet--which I could not photograph due to enormous snow mountains--the water was ice-free and running into the culvert.

Across the state it's Town Meeting (Election Day) when ballotting takes place. And no legislative activity occurs on such an important day...many of my kind are elected officials in their towns as well as holding state office.

In the late morning I made my way to my town's polling place to vote the school ballot, choose Selectmen and Planning Board and Budget Committee members, Library Trustee, Cemetery Trustees, and other necessary officers. I'd studied the sample ballot so I quickly voted my Town Warrant, consisting of 21 articles, among them the annual budget and various department funding requests and some zoning changes. And the notorious "reject the Pledge" warrant article, included by petition.

The Friends of the Library bake sale table was crammed with goodies. I bought some orange zest chocolate chip cookies. And a bunch of Rice Krispies squares, "gurt big 'uns" as West Country English folk would say. (The latter served as my "lunch.")

Due to illness my hairdresser had to reschedule my appointment, so I had time for little household errands. I stopped at the bread outlet for a huge 75 cent bag of "bird bread" and went to the Dollar Store for two more of those cheap ($1) knotted rope dog toys, which are very popular with my 4-legged companions. Remnants of the ones they received in their Christmas stockings still litter the Lodge. They lasted far longer than I ever expected--a wicked good value!

It was heartening to see how much melting has occurred, exposing the ground. Where I am, deep in the woods, we even have a tiny open patch in front of the house. The mourning doves sun themselves there.

I accomplished some substantive writing yesterday and will try to do the same this afternoon. But I've got one eye turned towards MSNBC, following the Spitzer story. The scandals of the late 17th century might be slightly overshadowed by a scandal of the early 21st century.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Snoozy Sunday

Last night we watched Fargo on DVD. I can remember a time when I thought that movie had soooooo much snow. Surrounded as we are with snow mountains (yes, still, after over a day of rain and temperatures well over freezing), the film's white landscape was quite comical. Ours is way, way worse.

Correction: ours is egregious.

In recent days the change in the light and the sun's direction and the calls of the birds have been noticeable and significant, awakening in me illogical inklings of spring.

But, in the woods people are now tapping maple trees, an irrefutable sign of a seasonal shift. So is turning the clocks forward, although it doesn't feel right to do it so early.

We had windstorms all night and into the morning.

I've been gathering online recipes for Chocolate Molten Lava Cake. To actually make it I'd need ramekins, and heaven only knows where mine might be.

Chocolate is definitely on the brain. For weeks I've been mainlining Nutella by the spoonful. Why? It's medicinal. Seriously! So are Thin Mints. Didn't you know that?

For Lent I didn't give up chocolate or sweets. I gave up limoncello, an enormous sacrifice, and swearing.

And shopping. I was slow to realise I'd given up shopping. I hadn't even noticed until a few days ago, on my birthday, when I needed to shop. It felt so unfamiliar, hunting among the snow piles for a parking space, and strolling from car park to store. Thinking it over, I felt I should belatedly declare having given up shopping--for myself, in a bricks-and-mortar establishment--for Lent. Yes, I've bought things since Ash Wednesday, for other people. I got Valentine's pressies for the Chap, and a birthday gift for a chum. But these were pure and selfless acts of retail and should not count against me.

Mind you, I did shop online during Lent, for myself. I bought bare-root rose plants. Again, wholly medicinal. Therapeutic.

I shall now be determined and deliberate in my not-shopping-for-myself-in-stores-or-online-either until after Easter Day.

Admittedly, this isn't much of a hardship. All the sales flyers in the Sunday supplements show models in t-shirts and shorts and sundresses and flip-flops. Such impractical, unseasonable items have no place in my life. Not for a long while yet.

This morning I slept late but feel as if I could doze off right now. Might have something to do with the warm body of the sleeping dog pressed against my side here on the downstairs sitting room sofa. There is no more effective soporific.

A few minutes ago I IM'ed my husband, one room to another, and freaked him out.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

In Which I Head for the Nursing Home

No, it wasn't advanced age or infirmity that sent me to the county nursing home yesterday. I went for a celebration of the opening of the brand new, state-of-the-art, environmentally green, enormous, and beautiful new facility.

It's a gorgeous building, high on a hill, facing the river and mountains. (And the County Correctional facility where I occasionally spend time!)

On entering, one has a wonderful sense of entering a sunny, airy village center. On one side of the reception area is a sunroom with lovely wicker furniture. One proceeds to the courtyard area with benches, lamps, and "shop fronts" for the cafe and hair salon.

Painted overhead is this amazingly realistic sky--with twinkling stars. (In low light and at night they must look lovely!)

The County Clerk, County Commissioner, County Treasurer, Chair of the County Delegation, and the Head of the Nursing Home, who assists a resident with cutting the ribbon as part of the opening ceremonies.

A group of us--current and former legislators, newspaper reporter--had a V.I.P. tour of the entire facility by the County Commissioner, who promised we'd see cool stuff other visitor tours wouldn't see!

We started at the Hair Salon.

From an upper level, we could look down upon the courtyard.

We saw the kitchen, the laundry, storage areas, staff dining room, service elevators.

And, most thrilling of all, we visited the "pipe room" that houses the environmentally friendly geothermal heating/cooling system--probably the largest in the state.

Because groundwater is a constant 50 degrees, it's more efficient to heat and cool for furnace and air-conditioning. Our county correctional facility, only a couple of years old, also has a geothermal system.

The residents' rooms are quite pleasant, spacious, with natural woodwork window trims and cabinets, nice lighting, and huge windows--each one with a view of the terraces outside, or the mountains in the distance. Each wing has its own kitchen and dining area and activity room.

This bathtub cost $10,000.

Here's a view from the top level activity area, down the corridor from the chapel and conference room.

We toured the doctor and dentist's office, the rehabilitation center, heard about the activities for residents.

Then we joined the reception in the enormous activity room. The food was delicious. Several of us found a table in the Cafe and talked politics.

The current facility--parts of it are 150 years old--is situated right next to the new one. The very complicated move of residents and staff from one to the other will be staged this week. When they arrive, they'll find all their belongings waiting for them in their assigned rooms. I hope on the moving days the weather will be as lovely as it was on opening day!

From the nursing home my legislator colleague and I returned to our town for a radio broadcast from a local restaurant.

One of my consituents being interviewed.

The Chap brought home pizza for supper. The girls were very weary, as we'd had a trip to the vet's in the morning. Ruth had her annual exam and because Jewel has never been Home Alone, she came along with us. Both of them were insane with joy about the outing in the car. They've got a terrible case of cabin fever!

This morning, during a break in the rain, I ran local errands--bank, post office, garden center. I've re-potted my Crown of Thorns plant and set up the pots for rooting my birthday boxwood.