"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, August 31, 2008

Strolling Down to the Dock

We woke to loon calls and quite a breeze, which has blossomed into a gale...yet nothing more than a small puff compared to what's surging towards the Gulf Coast.

After walking nearly a mile and admiring the wild asters blooming along our road (guess who forgot her camera?) Ruth and Jewel and I returned to the cottage. We strolled down to the dock to await the Big White Boat.

The wind whipped up waves and spume.

Checking the lake temperature, I find that it's below 70 degrees. Oh, dear!

The marigolds on the boat house windowbox are still blooming.

"Remind us which direction the boat will be coming."

I wander to the old well head to take some pictures from a different vantage.

And the boat steams past, right on time.

Back up the hillside steps to the house, to finish off the pot of coffee. (Exquisitely and lovingly brewed by the Chap.)

If you want to keep strolling, follow this link!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Leaving a Mark

In the kitchen of the cottage, behind the door, there's a long list of names of Porters--past and present--beside little marks to indicate the person's height on a particular date. Perhaps it was initially a means of tracing kids' growth, but all the adults appear too, and sometimes we check our measurements.

Earlier this summer, I decided that the absence of dogs needed to be remedied. So I measured Ruth and Jewel. They are at the very bottom of the list, nearer the floor.

And far above them--me!

The loon in the Bay was calling out early this morning, persistently. I don't know what it was saying, but it was very chatty.

The girls and I had a good long walk this morning. We all needed an escape from politics and I was mulling over book developments. I accomplished much yesterday and today must do even more so I can have a holiday weekend.

The Chap arrives this evening.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

That Dream. This Day.

The morning light at 5:55 a.m. was different than yesterday. The sky was pink, casting a rosy reflection onto the still lake. It was beautiful, unphotographably so, and rich with promise.

After feeding the beasts I switched on the radio and headed back under the blankets, fully expecting to doze off to the drone of NPR as I usually do. But I didn't. I mentally outlined the scene I'll be writing today and mulled a revision of an earlier one. But my concentration was impeded by reports of last night's political activities in Denver, and previews of what will unfold this evening.

As one who experienced the officially post-segregated South, I was formed and shaped by the civil rights movement. As a lifelong member of a denomination devoted to social justice, with its own civil rights martyr (a New Hampshire native) issues of race and equality and opportunity have always been before me.

What touched my soul early this morning was an atypical review of that great event of 45 years ago today, the 1963 March on Washington and Martn Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. As the interviewees described the alarm and uncertainty running through the capitol city, I wondered what my grandparents--who lived there--must have been feeling. Because they were products of their particular time and place, they most likely shared the concerns of the white establishment. It was an aspect of the event that I never imagined when confronted with black and white footage of a vast crowd standing before the Lincoln Memorial listening to one man's soaring rhetoric and distinct vision.

On my way to maturity I pursued relationships with persons of all races, ethnicities, and classes, sometimes provoking negativity, and my life has been the richer for it. I carried into these friendships more than a little baggage--my underlying awareness that many of my planter ancestors in Colonial Virginia and the Carolinas and Georgia were slave owners. I can't help that, any more than I can being descnded from English lords whose manors were worked by serf labour. To my enlightenened and critical 20th/21st century eyes, both systems are heinous and regrettable. However, I'm not steeped in white guilt, which in my view is utterly useless. What is more important--and necessary--is action. When called upon to "do justice!" I give it my best shot and always shall.

During my years in the Atlanta area, the late Dr. King was very much a local hero. His influence and impact could be traced on a daily basis, as blacks rose to positions of power in government and industry and society. And the challenges could be found as well, in the blighted, impoverished neighbourhoods and struggling schools.

Later, when I lived in Colorado, I witnessed fresh fruits of the civil rights movement. As in the South, the minority population had gained politcal power and prominence: the major city's mayor was Hispanic and was succeeded by African-Americans. Someday, I felt certain, the nation would catch up to the cities and states.

This Presidential campaign has seemed endless--remember, here in New Hampshire it started up 3 1/2 years ago!--with many twists and turns. It's left me exhausted, cynical, and frustrated. But as this day dawned, a strange peace stole over me.

I remember with perfect clarity a moment four years ago, when a young man of mixed race appeared at the podium and started articulating some of my very own thoughts and expectations. I nearly fell off the sofa in surprise and delight.

I'm not one to be won over by words alone, or persuaded by hype and excessivly choreographed imagery. Which is why I'm grateful for the opportunity to meet and assess my longstanding nominee of choice live and in person, in a small forum without a single member of the press, and at a gathering at the home of an aquaintance. I can't claim to know the candidate from talking with him and looking into his eyes and hearing his answers to some tough questions. But I was impressed by him and his potential and continue to be...I say that as one who has know numerous impressive people in public and private life.

Therefore I'm willing--and eager--to give him the chance to build on his assurances of a progressive and prosperous future.

I suspect it's a generational and situational response more than a partisan one. And partly professional. I'm an author, how could I not incline towards the candidate who established a literary reputation and bestseller status by actually writing his own books, all by himself?

But mostly, my preference is driven by those words uttered 45 years ago today.

This is the anniversary of a speech that took place in Washington, a world within a world to which I am closely, intimately connected. The man who gave that speech is most often associated with Atlanta, a placed in which I'm also rooted, known in civil rights days as "The City Too Busy To Hate." I am here on the shore of the same lake where precisely 40 years ago Coretta Scott King brought her children immdediately after Dr. King's death. And tonight in Denver, where I spent 11 happy and productive years, a symbolic descendent of MLK will ascend to a position the civil rights leader believed possible but didn't live to see.

Perhaps I'm overly optimistic, but I like to think that persons of any political view or preference, and even those with none, can recognise that this is a wonderful and momentous development.

The circles of my life and my experiences are colliding in fascinating ways. That's why my heart and mind--and yes, my eyes--are overflowing this morning.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

5:55 A.M.

That's when the dogs woke me for their breakfast. There was almost no light, except on the mountains to the west--the sun strikes them first, illuminating the sliver of houses at the edge of the shore.

And it was chilly! Last night was positively autumnal, the mercury dipped into the 40's.

Soon as we arrived yesterday afternoon I ran all round the house closing windows. According to the forecast, I won't have to keep them closed.

For supper last night I tried re-creating a memorable pizza I had nearly 10 years ago, at an Atlanta hotel: artichoke and goat cheese.

I was quite pleased with the way mine turned out. Looking forward to leftovers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Yesterday the Chap and I had lunch at our favourite Mexican place in Manchester. The mayor was coming out as we were going in...such a political hotspot!

Then we picked out--and purchased!--all the 12x12 master bathroom floor tile and the 4x4 for the backsplash and jacuzzi tub surround, pictured below. We also ordered the replacement top for our 60" vanity, represented by the little chip. Estimated delivery time: a few weeks.

Last week I purchased a tough little blue ball for Jewel to replace the hollow blue ball that Ruth shredded. This item is now the most popular toy in the house, eclipsing the larger red ball for which they previously competed.

A friend and neighbour has recently returned from a driving trip through mid-Atlantic states. He brought back 10 bushels of fresh peaches from the Pennsylvania farm he visits every year. We were the grateful recipients of fruit. Here's what was left by the time I got round to taking a photo.

We live in the country. We eat a lot of peaches. That's why this song is constantly running through my head:

When I gaze into my crystal ball, I see a Big Lake in my future. But only after a music lesson, supermarket and bookshop, and at least one other errand.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Strolls

First stroll was round the Lodge this morning before church, when the sky was still grey. Items are shown in more or less the order in which I encountered them.

Stepping onto the deck, I find my potted heather plant blooming...

...and my scarlet runner beans.

In the border at the edge of the big deck, the globular form of an opening Cottage Rose blossom.

In the perennial border at the edge of the woods, more heather.

Beside our woodpile, my new mountain of wood chips. It smells very nice.

Beside the octagon deck, white rugosa and orange rose hip.

Growing at the back of the house, the perennial sweet pea that hybridised here on the property when the magenta one and the white one cross pollinated.

Garden phlox in the rose and perennial garden at the rear of our decks.

The flowers in bloom are quintessentially late summer. But from the front yard I see signs of approaching autumn in the changing maple tree.

My second stroll took place at church. A morning glory on the walkway.

Hydrangea a little bit nearer the red front door.

At some point during the service or our Adult Forum on the Book of Common Prayer, the sunshine returned.

Now we're trying to decide what else to do with this lovely day. A canoe ride on the little lake? Bathing the dogs? Scraping rust off the cast iron railings at the front steps and re-painting them green? Curling up with a book? Tidying the inside of the house? Mowing the wildflower patch? Pulling weeds in the borders?

Too many choices....

As usual, for additional strolls, follow this link!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Party & Parade

Our priestly canon friend invited us to his big summer party. It was a beautiful evening for it!

The host has a dinosaur on his mailbox. Not sure why.

Some of our diocesan clergy were there, so was the Bishop, and various other people we've met. And plenty we hadn't yet met. It was partly catered--a pig roast from the nearby barbecue smokehouse, so the main course was pulled pork. The starters and salads and desserts were truly splendid.

There were several dogs in attendance. The host's dog was staying in his room, but two different guests each brought a big black lab, and later in the evening a chocolate lab from a neighbour's house showed up. And the Border collies were there--we met them when they were younger. They live at a monastery in Massachusetts.

After dark, the bonfire lit up the meadow.

Among the elegant touches, a candelabra on the dessert table.

Margaret with margarita. My flamingo earrings got lots of comments.

Despite a late and festive night, I was up just after 7 a.m. to get ready for the parade. I checked my email first thing and found the message I was looking for about the new Vice Presidential candidate.

For the first time in my life, I've met personally both party nominees. Obama twice, Biden once. And come November, I'll be on the ballot with them.

Today's parade is the longest and biggest of the three Old Home Day Parades in our district. We four reps rode in our trusty 1970 Cadillac DeVille convertible. Because it's a 2-town celebration, we paraded with the State Reps from the other town. We're a tight and friendly bunch. Because it's an election year, there were a lot of candidates taking part.

Crossing over the bridge, from one town to the other.

We were near the front, so on reaching Memorial Field, we pulled over under the shade trees and watched the rest of the parade go by.

Captain America showed up.

The theme was holidays, so there were floats with holiday scenes--Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, Easter. And a couple of really incongruous ones, considering it was the hottest day of August (so far!)

A Christmas Parade. Santa must've been melting in that suit!

This was my favourite, and the most creative definition of a holiday: Snow Day!

We spent a couple of hours under our tent, with our campaign signs planted and our literature as handouts. The fair goers were there for food and fun, and sometimes I wonder why we hang around after the parade--we are the least interesting exhibitions on display! We we had some food and fun, too.

Returned to the Lodge, where the Chap had been helping a work crew of other residents up and down our private road, limb cutting, ditching, filling potholes, and chipping up branches. I'd probably have got more votes by pitching in than doing the parade!

I'm one of the lucky recipients of the wood chips--there's a sizeable mound of the beside our drive, where the previous mound of chips was. Oh, joy--this autumn or spring I can re-pave my garden pathways.

We're off to a potluck with the neighbours at the end of the road. Second party in a row, and the weather is as fine as it was last night.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Plates, Pottery, Projects

Amongst its notable attributes (just yesterday we were touted as the state with the lowest crime rate), my great state is also acknowledged as having a huge number of personalised licence plates. Virginia and Illinois have at times claimed the top place on the list. New Hampshire was recently identified as #2. I don't know how this category is ranked--percentage of all plates, number of plates, per capita? Anyway, I know we're way, way up there. Not only is our vanity plate mania a public service--entertaining travellers with our wit, widsom, creativity--it's a wonderful revenue generator. (As a State Rep, I'm all for that!)

The Chap and I have logged a lot of highway time this week. I here present several plates we've encountered, courtesy of an online licence-plate generator.

One of them turned up on the vast stretches of highway between Qu├ębec and The Lodge, one is regularly seen travelling along Route 4 between Concord and the first roudabout to the east, and one can be found on a vehicle presently parked in our own garage. If you care to make guesses about which is which, go right ahead!

Last weekend at we entertained a friend at the lake cottage. In addition to being a priest and a canon, he's a fine art potter (a couple of months ago we attended his his first NH exhibition.) Whenever he comes over, he brings a piece of pottery as a hostess gift. This time, a spoon rest. I'm thrilled, because Jewel (accidentally) broke a favourite spoon rest and I'm not that fond of the substitute. I adore this one!

I live in Project World. The master bath renovation is ongoing--noisily and directly over my head. Picked out the floor tile yesterday, plus a countertop. The basic theme is shifting from antiseptic grey and white with natural wood (very fine and irreplaceable wood, according to one estimator) to a warmer earthiness--with same wood (used in different ways) and warm rich stone elements. Or so I assume. I'll believe it when I see it...in a finished state.

I've just now completed a quick and easy project on my own. Simple as it was, it took forever to plan.

A year ago when upgrading our kitchen appliances, we were so enamoured with the pristine steeliness of the new fridge that we chose not to re-install our extensive fridge magnet collection, which used to be displayed exactly like this:

Since the arrival of our fancy modern-look fridge, Lodge visitors unanimously mourned the loss of the magnets. So for the past year I've probed the Friends & Family of MEP Brain Trust for suggestions about what to do. When the friend of my youth was here in June, she told me about a magnetic bulletin board she's got, which sounded perfect. (Thank you, thank you! You're a genius!)

So I ordered a couple of them online, my first and only Ikea purchase. Yesterday at Lowe's I found the traditional green spray paint I needed, and soon as I got home I applied it. This morning I arranged the magnets.

Being metal, and weighted with a ton of cherished magnets from all over the US and The World, hanging the boards on the kitchen wall will require some seriously supportive hardware. That's why I have the Chap--he'll sort it out. My work is done.

We've not much empty space for additional magnets. In future it could be a case of add one, remove one. Although we definitely don't plan to curtail our travels, we'd already somewhat curtailed the obsessive magnet purchases.

Another project I'm facing--not unpleasant but truly daunting--is plowing through the fashion mags arriving daily. I can barely hold them to read them--the size, the weight!

Our mail delivery person must hate September. What's more, many of the thickest ones came with an extra supplement in the plastic wrapping. My subscriptions to these frivolous publications are longstanding, but I assure you I "read them for the articles" too, not just the style forecasts. My batch of September mags air-freighted from Britain will arrive later...they won't be so shockingly fat.

The weather's fantastic, clear and warm. I'm percolating a Big Lake plan but am unsure when I can put them it effect. Our social and political calendar are a bit crowded over the next 24 hours.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Return of the Roses

Recent rainfall, followed by bright sunshine, have encouraged my David Austin English roses to bloom.

A close-up view of the beautifully cupped and many-petalled Cottage Rose.

May your day be rosy as well!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Stroll with 'Shrooms

There's a fungus among us!

After "looking up" last week, I'm back to ground study. The persistent rain and damp conditions have resulted in a mushroom and fungus bloom the likes of which no local can recall. On the radio we've heard cautionary words from our State Veterinarian, reminding dog owners to be watchful, because wild mushrooms can make dogs dangerously ill. His office is getting lots of calls.

Happily for us, Ruth and Jewel have no interest in eating wild mushrooms. They do have an unfortunate habit of treading upon them and breaking the delicate stems. When they're on their leads, I try hard to steer them away from the 'shrooms, but there are so many that I haven't been able to save every one.

We set out this sunny morning for our first walk of the day, and my camera came with me so I could record the incredible beauty to be found rising up from the soil.

Can you spot the insect on this mushroom?

I was examining this log for 'shrooms and saw this woolly bug.

This fallen and rotting tree trunk lies at the head of our secret forest pathway leading to the Point. It's decorated by tiny yellow mushrooms...

...that look like tiny yellow umbrellas.

The tree was covered with them, end to end.

In our own drive, this new spore was sprouting. Soon it will look exactly like the one at the beginning of this stroll!

When good mushrooms go bad....Here's one in disintegration mode. Over time, they decay and turn oozy and end as a greasy puddle. Sort of like our final view of the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz film, after she's hit with the pail of water.

For days I've been fascinated by this cluster near the screened door of our porch. They're more like something you'd find growing on the ocean floor rather than the forest floor. When I look at them I'm reminded of brain coral.

Above you see not even half my photos. I was selective, choosing only the most colourful and/or interesting specimens to post here.

My mushroom walk ended with the chug of the Big White Boat steaming down the Bay.

The strong morning breeze along the waterside has died down, so our next stroll will be down to the dock for some swimming!

For more strolling, go to A Quiet Country House for links.