"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, February 27, 2009

Promising Signs

I'm afraid to speak the "s" word, the change of season is still weeks away. And yet...

Lent. If we're in the penitential season, that means Easter is coming!

The daylight hours. They're lengthening. It will only get better when the clocks go forward next weekend.

The thermometer at the Lodge. It reads 53 degrees today. Heavy melting. The world outside smells damp. Rain expected. (Snow expected too, maybe 4 inches on Sunday!)

Frost heaves. Driving to the hairdresser and back, I had a very bumpy ride! It's definitely a sign of thawing.

Haircut. I had my hair chopped short. Partly I credit the seasonal shift but mostly it's because I confront a birthday and hope the new 'do makes me look more youthful than my actual age-to-be.

Troop withdrawals. Nothing to do with seaons, but definitely a cause for hope in a time of mostly bad news. At the hair salon the tv was tuned to the President's announcement, and everyone was paying close attention.

Maple trees. Already there are news reports about the coming sugaring season.

Chipmunk. While standing at the kitchen sink, I saw this:

I'm trying not to be too impatient...still a lot of winter left--including possible mid-week birthday snow. But from now on, it's going to be a different sort of winter, tempered by a constant awareness of change.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Day Is It?

I'm losing track of time, keeping up with the days by the television schedule. Is it Idol night yet? Damages? That was yesterday. 30 Rock and The Office? I think they're on tonight. Washington Week--probably tomorrow.

We hadn't had enough of a warm-up for snow melting, so it's still quite a white world. This morning I found myself crawling up and over the snowbank featured in my previous post and can therefore report that it's amazingly solid. This feat was necessary because the pole and hook for the suet feeder came loose from its mooring--along with the feeder--and fell off the deck. At first I was worried they wouldn't be recoverable till spring melt, but after some ingenious efforts and a willingess to crawl/swim/climb through a barrier of snow as tall as me, I succeeded in rescuing it.

I continue to be excited by my writing productivity. Today or tomorrow I expect to hit a milestone.

Yesterday I was writing a scene that takes place in the building marked with the red arrows.

Another view

My bedtime reading is a novel in a category of fiction I don't often delve into and I'm loving it.

As I'm mostly home this week, I've been eating a small bowl of oatmeal either for breakfast or lunch. I add a few slices of banana and a sprinkling of hagelslag--which is this:

It's good fuel for my ballet workout!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Keeping Fit

With the sun shining, the world outside is blindingly white. A gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky.

In the dogs' yard I found this tunnel of snow and rugosa canes. I don't think it's being used, but Ruth could probably pass through it if she tried.

Behind the house we maintain a cleared passage for our fuel oil delivery man. Usually the Chap keeps it open with his snowblower. But the recent snow was so deep and heavy, he had to clear it by shoveling. It's nearly 4 feet deep in places.

When the snowplow wall gets as tall as me, we decide we've had enough snow.

The fur coat and sunglasses and up-do and pink legs indicate my new status as celebrity ballet star.

Well, maybe not yet.

When not fulfilling my various state and diocesan obligations, I'm housebound and writing. I crave exercise. I do use my free weights, but that only serves my arms and upper body. I've got an exercise bike for cardio, and I've been good about using it to burn calories. But my goodness, it's boring.

I don't want to join a gym--I seem to be allergic to all that machinery. It looks and feels too much like work. And I don't like perspiring--or cursing--when people are around.

In the past, my favourite form of exercise was dance class. But nobody's holding ballet class here in the forest. Losing 26 pounds has already given me a semblance of the body I had back in my dancing days...but I want the muscle tone back, too.

So I bought this:

The New York City Ballet Workout comes in a 2-dvd set. Before choosing it I read lots of online reviews of ballet workouts.

It's really lived up to the hype.

I'm starting out slowly and don't do every exercise on the discs. The warm-ups, the stretches. As for the ballet exercises...well, when you do something every day for years, it never really leaves you. My balace is terrible, my extension pitiful. My grandes battements look more like dégagés. The soreness afterwards is a reminder of muscles I'd forgotten I had.

The 1st disc has the basics, more than enough for a good workout. The second disc is more intense. It includes some combinations, and a simple version of the Balancine-choreographed Tarantella. I haven't quite worked up to that yet, but it looks fun and not beyond my capacities.

Peter Martins, ballet master at NYCB, does the voice-over and instruction. His soothing, deliberate, lightly accented voice (he's a Dane), calls out the combinations, saying things like, "Feel the stretch in your hamstrings." Oh, you don't have to tell me to feel it.

He's encouraging and complimentary. "Very nice," he tells me at the end of a routine. He wouldn't say that if he saw what a hash I'd made of it!

I really love the music.

Whenever I want to be a ballerina, I send the dogs outdoors. During the warm ups, when I'm lying on the floor stretching and rolling about, they jump on me. They think I want to play.

As for my old pointe shoes...I'm leaving them in the attic. I'm not that ambitious! Or deluded.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Massive Snowfall

About a foot, total. Very heavy, very clingy. Even the strong winds overnight didn't dislodge it.

Ruth says, "Wow!"

Bird feeder on the deck.

Trees behind the house.

One of our drives.

Around 10 p.m. last night we lost power. I listened to the rest of the Oscar broadcast on the tv radio. Cousin Kate won her statuette (finally!) The power was restored around midnight. Internet service is still out, our dish is crusted with snow and isn't receiving outer space frequencies.

I'm out and about today in this amazingly white world. (Blogging from the library.) Cookbook meeting, music lesson. Then back to the manuscript...my one and only activity this week, apart from a hairdresser's appointment.

We must be in record snowfall territory. A month ago we were inches away from setting a new one. Since then we've had feet of the stuff.

Musical Monday

Love this band. Saw them in concert with Simply Red.

Love this song.

There's an official Meet Danny Wilson community over on MySpace.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Stroll: Making Tracks

Stepping outdoors around 9:30 a.m., I heard--then saw--a pileated woodpecker in our biggest tree. No, he wasn't being attacked by red pointy things, that's my addition. The light was behind him and he looked like a bump in the tree trunk. At intervals throughout my stroll I heard his hyena-like call.

Instead of scanning the skies this morning, I kept my eyes on the ground, identifying tracks in the snow.

The Chap

Me (wearing my woollen clogs)



Blue jay (when I showed these to the Chap, he said, "A chicken!")

Weasel (probably, because of the nearby tunnelling in the snow bank)

Red squirrel (probably, because smaller than the grey squirrel tracks)

white-footed mouse plus
(probably) chipmunk (because at least one recently emerged from underground)

Here's a view I seldom show, our "front yard". I crossed the road to take this. Between the trees and the hillside opposite--all that whiteness--is our little lake.

Technically, the site pictured above belongs to our seasonal neighbour across the way. We did consider purchasing this parcel from its previous owner. But as we've already got water frontage on the Big Lake (with the attendant tax consequence) and because this parcel is wetland and cannot be developed, and since the full acreage was necessary for the acquisition of our neighbour's septic permit, we didn't/couldn't/wouldn't make an offer. Decided we'd "make do" with our twenty-one acres of woods, hillside stream, mountain, and open yard.

Our secluded woodland surroundings are about to get even whiter. Heavy flakes are falling. Over the next twelve hours a storm is expected to dump 6 or 10 or 12 inches of fresh snow, depending which forecaster's predictions are accurate!

Thanks for stopping by. To stroll along with other strollers, head over here!

PS After posting, I happened to be gazing from an upstairs window down on the snowscape behind the Lodge--deer tracks all over! But the snow is way too deep for photographing them close up like the other tracks. So you'll just have to take my word for it!

And the winner is....

In the Brit-Choc taste test, Cadbury's comes out on top!

Friday, February 20, 2009

And Even More

I was oblivious to the forecast--I'm on break, I'm writing a book, don't care so much about weather. I was a little surprised that it was snowing last night at bedtime. And even more surprised, on waking, to see nearly as much snow this morning as we had yesterday morning! This snow is much lighter, easier to shovel.

Not so good for snowball making, but I found a ball-shaped chunk of yesterday's snow, frozen hard, and threw it for the girls.

With the usual results.

Enjoy your weekend.

Me, I'm on break--and loving it. 'Cause every day feels like a weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

It's Back

Long, busy yesterday in the House of Reps. At midday my county delegation was served the usual wonderful luncheon by our County Farm Bureau over in the State House Annex. We had a bit of a surprise when a floor fight erupted on one of our Fish & Game bills, but the vote to kill the bill came out massively the way we wanted. Once more the seat belt bill passed, by an ever wider margin than two years ago. Now it depends on the Senate and the Governor's signature to ensure that we won't be the only state in the nation without a mandatory seatbelt law. Several freshmen legislators made their debut addresses to the House.

The session finished about 5:30, just in time for the NH Dental Society legislative dinner at a seafood and steak restaurant that, conveniently, was on my way home. My grilled swordfish was delicious! Very dedicated and informative people.

I think it might be a record for me, being fed two meals in one day by interest groups. It could've been all three, there was a legislative breakfast in the morning, but I rarely do those.

The snow was already falling when the dinner and program ended, and the roads were dreadful coming back to the Lodge. I averaged only 20 to 25 mph. on the big highway, and even if I hadn't been behind two giant state DOT snowplows, I couldn't/wouldn't have driven any faster. The side roads hadn't been plowed, so there was a bit more traction.

We woke to about 5 inches of very heavy, very wet snow.

The perfect consistency for snowballs. Dogs and snowballs are a great combination. When you throw a snowball into the snow, it vanishes!

I'm officially on Winter Break (from the Legislature, not writing and not real life) so sitting at home surrounded by snow and ms. pages and research books and dogs is no problem!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Balancing Act

I can identify myself as "the one" without thinking of my three closest friends, all of whom are exceptionally balanced.

Yesterday was a busy day, starting with the weekly Chairs and Vice Chairs meeting at 8:30.

At 10 o'clock our committee held a public hearing on our one really controversial bill...such a large crowd turned out that we tranferred from our committee room to Representatives Hall. (As we did a couple of years ago on a similarly controversial bill.) Counting those who signed their names in opposition, the handful in favour, and the folks who drifted in and out of the chamber, interested parties probably numbered around 200. Maybe as many as 40 people testified, nearly all in opposition.

Another "first" for me--when the Chairman stepped out for a little while, I chaired the hearing from the Speaker of the House's podium. Nice view from up there. I never needed that giant gavel, but I did flip the little toggle switch back and forth to turn on and off the Speaker's microphone. Most of the time I sat on the incredibly comfy upholstered bench on the platform where House Counsel normally sits, which also has a good view of most of the chamber.

The hearing lasted 2 and a half hours. The Chap showed up as we finished, he was monitoring bills in another committee today.

In the afternoon we held executive sessions on 4 bills, including the bill we heard in the morning (killed, unanimously.) I didn't leave the Capitol till 4:30.

All bills that were referred to our committee have now been acted upon. Doesn't look like we'll get any Senate bills. The next phase of our work will be reviewing the Fish & Game Department Performance Audit, meetings with the Commissioners and Department, and committee continuing ed., aka "field trips"!

Today, we expect a long, long House Session, because we must report out all early bills before tomorrow.

We also expect a snowstorm. Because, hey, it's Wednesday and a House Session Day, and that's the norm. Fortunately the brunt of the foul weather is coming overnight. Snowfall guestimate for the Lodge is in the 5-10" range, which seems excessive to me. I feel entirely responsible for the forecast. The other day I complainied that the massive snowbanks on the roadsides are looking dirty and unattractive. What I meant by that was that a dusting would be nice to freshen the snow cover. That's all! Be careful what you wish for....

I've been delinquent in my page quota--yesterday and probably today. I'm entirely unanxious about it. We're nearing the Legislature's Winter Break. (Mine starts tomorrow!) I'll be at leisure until March 4, which is notable for quite a different reason besides being a Session Day. (And, I hope, not a snowy one.) I expect to make up any writing deficits in the coming days.

Perhaps, by the end of my break, I'll be feeling a bit more balanced.

Or not!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Musical Monday

In honour of the Presidents' Day Holiday, presenting the group The Presidents of the United States of America.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Stroll: Birdwatching

This is the weekend of the NH Audubon Society's Annual Backyard Winter Bird Survey. We participate every year.

Some members of our household are dedicated bird watchers.

Others, not so much.

Here's our count for the full weekend, as of this a.m.:

Mourning dove 1
Downy Woodpecker 1 (f)
Blue Jay 12
Black-capped Chickadee 8
Tufted Titmouse 2
Red-breasted nuthatch 2
White-breasted nuthatch 1
Dark-eyed Junco 5
Northern cardinal 2 (m, f)
Pine siskin 2
American Goldfinch 4

red-breasted nuthatch


white-breasted nuthatch


pine siskins

chickadee, red- and white-breasted nuthatches

For other Sunday strolls, you can go over here.

Backtracking to yesterday, here's some of my Valentine's Day loot--note the NH theme.

Fish & Game hand towel

Portable coffee cup featuring White Mountain tourists circa 1875

On our way home from a delightful shopping and dining trip to Manchester, we encountered local traffic.

We enjoyed a favourite beverage.

We watched a movie.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

In honour of the day...the perfect video. It features a person I knew in my theatrical days, two guys who are refugees from the same town I fled aged 17, a band that formed in the city where my valentine and I first met and fell in love, a fab little tune, subtitles (even where they aren't completely necessary). Oh--and a mandolin!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Abe

Guess who showed up at the State House today?

Lots of people, actually. We had two joint sessions (House and Senate together.) The first was to hear the Governor's Budget Address. I'll be digesting all the proposed changes and cuts for quite some time.

We--House only--then legislated through a short calendar of bills.

At noontime we re-convened the Joint Session with the Senate. The Governor came back. He and the Speaker and the Senate President made some remarks. President Lincoln entered Representatives Hall, escorted by an Honor Guard in Civil War uniform. He gave his Gettysburg Address, and after a talk by a Lincoln historian, Lincoln present his Second Inaugural Address. In their remarks, the historian and the Speaker and the Senate President comments connected Lincoln with New Hampshire--he visited here right after making his historic appearance at the Cooper Union, at the start of his Presidential campaign. And prominent Granite Staters--Daniel Webster, Franklin Pierce, J.P Hale--featured in Lincoln's "backstory," as we writers might call it.

As you see in the above photo, I had a photo op with the late, great president in the Reps Hall antechamber.

I'm blogging on the fly from the diocesan offices. Two diocesan meetings this afternoon. Another "church and state" day, but as usual not in that order.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fun on Snow

It's a dangerous day. Sunny, mild, the temperature is headed into the mid- to upper 40's.

Just a big tease, there's lots of winter left. March is usually our snowiest month. We often have snow in Easter Week...no matter when Easter might fall.

But we're enjoying this respite while it lasts.

I was at the State House all of yesterday--public hearings and executive sessions in my committee. A good day but a long one. Our chairman was prime sponsor of the now non-controversial saltwater fishing licence bill, so I got the gavel in the afternoon for that hearing, which lasted nearly two hours. (Two years ago, when first introduced, we had quite a heated and well-attended public hearing, and almost complete opposition!) The view of North State Street is greatly improved by the gleaming cleanliness of my car.

This morning on the deck, the girls were mountain-climbing.

Ruth on the summit of No-name Mountain.

Ruth at the edge of No-name Mountain.

Jewel climbs Wolf Mountain.

Jewel on the Summit of Wolf Mountain.

Jewel descends Wolf Mountain, and Ruth--who decided she's much happier on terra firma--is excited about it.

We watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last night. It was an all black or brown dog final, except for the Scottish Deerhound. Stump was a cutie with a great story. But that deerhound...sigh.

PS I was invited to show off my knowledge of garden history at the Word Wenches blog, a group blog of writing friends and colleagues.

My progress on the manuscript is making me very happy. I'll be spending my part of my writing day in a royal garden in the Netherlands. The chapter after that one takes place on a battlefield. Interesting contrasts!

Afternoon Update

The temperature has soared to 50 degrees on our outdoor thermometer.