"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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Unit

Yesterday my home was invaded by 3 and sometimes 4 installers. After a busy few hours and significant expense, a propane-powered generator was added to the Lodge's many amenites. It's basically a win-win. Either the money spent ensures that never again will we have a power outage of any kind. Or, in the event of ice storm, tornado, fallen trees, or transformer blow-out, most of our house will be amply supplied with electricity. No more ice in the bathtub!

Ruth and Jewel were excellent hostesses and enjoyed having the workmen around.

Word from the computer repair shop in Concord: my trusty and well-travelled laptop will live on, there's nothing catastrophic wrong with it. The tech removed a big fuzzball the internal fan unit and now it's working perfectly. Cost of repair, a mere $22.50. I'll pick it up tomorrow.

I've made good my longstanding promise to Ruth to put her in a book. My late dogs Lola and Shadow were immortalised in that fashion. I was going to put Ruth in a kid's book or a nonfiction book (Jon Katz is a pretty big influence on me.) But she's now included in my work-in-progress. She's not quite as tiny as so many 17th century lap dogs, but she's a good fit nonethless. Jewel's turn will come someday.

The trees on our property are growing more colourful by the day. Still some colour in the gardens, too.

Early in the summer the deer made it past the barrier round the front garden and hard-pruned my false sunflowers. And yet--they're blooming!

At this time of year, the mild or cool temperatures convince the forsythia it's April. So they throw out a few blossoms--while their leaves are changing colour!

The tall garden phlox.


Alba rugosa.

Maybe my last perennial sweetpeas.

I've been looking over the LSR's (Legislative Service Requests) that have been posted, aka embryonic bills for the next session. Major deja vu.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Musical Monday Morning on the Big Lake

I did come here yesterday after church, on my own. It rained all day and into the night. Did plenty of writng and finished up in time to watch the double-episode debut of The Amazing Race followed by Mad Men. I used to have a retro summer floral print dress (I think it was Lanz) that looked very much like the one Betty wore when she met Henry at the bakery. I want another one! Even though the season for wearing it appears to be past.

I took the photo at 7 o'clock or earlier, when the sun is rising behind our hillside and casting a glow on the mountains across the Bay.

I'll be working here today and heading back to the Lodge later.

I'm using the Chap's laptop. Mine is at the repair shop for what I hope is a minor issue. A plague of electronic mishaps has broken out. Yesterday when I arrived here I dropped my camera on the hardwood floor and messed up the hinge of the little compartment that holds the SD card. Camera won't power up if the door doesn't close property, which it doesn't always do now. The pop-up flash stopped working properly a month ago. After adding up all these signs of wear and tear, I ordered a new camera. I'll have a few weeks to break it in (not literally!) before my next trip.

After I finish the two scenes before me today I mean to review and polish the ones I completed last week. When writing historical events I had the advantage of many eyewitness accounts. For the funeral scene, I can also listen to the real-life "soundtrack."

I've got Purcell's full funeral score on cd but it's at the other house.

When I listen to the dirge-like funeral march I can easily picture the scene--the trumpeters and drummers preceding the members of Parliament and all the aristocracy as well as the royal household as they wended their way from Whitehall to Westminster. And my female protagonist walking slowly behind the cortege, the train of her gown trailing in the snow.

Not a very cheeful piece of music, but it's very majestic.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Seeing, Selling, Buying

Quite a busy and pleasant Saturday, and wonderfully sunny.

Spent the first part of the day on travel planning followed by indoor plant preparation for the new season. I re-potted my stephanotis and one of my camellias, pruned my citrus bonsai and my lavender bonsai and another potted lavender. Harvested a lot of rosemary and sage to be dried for winter use. Placed tender potted plants that live outdoors in spring/summer in their autumn/winter quarters.

I then followed the Chap in my car to his office, where we met the fellow who has purchased my Saab. It's going to a good home in a neighbouring state. Now we need a similarly good home for the snow tires and rims.

On the way I paused in the shopping mall parking lot to shoot this tree, which I missed the other day.

We're now down to "only" 3 vehicles.

I had the tour of the C's new personal office which he's now moved into. It's really a nice space and looks larger than I expected even after all the furniture is in place.

We purchased some provisions for ourselves and some dog food. At PetSmart we bought a few other necessities for the girls. A nice new water bowl to go in our renovated master bath (only a year late!) A couple of larger sized nylabones "for powerful chewers." The bowl and the bones have all be used and judged satisfactory. Ruth is gnawing on a nylabone at this very moment.

Tonight, after pizza, we're watching a film, The Namesake which I've wanted to see ever since viewing the preview at the cinema.

I'm dithering over my plans with regard to the Big Lake. Go for the day? Stay overnight?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Colourful Prelude

Reasons I love New Hampshire? Let me count them.

1. The clergy of our diocese. (The laity, too, but I spent most of today with clergy.) A big chunk of our General Convention deputation (remember Anaheim in July?) attended the monthly Clergy Day meeting to give a presentation on our experiences and the outcomes of convention. We didn't prepare in advance, it was all basically ad lib, but I think our listeners got a good sense of our common and individual perceptions. Saw so many friends, some of whom I hadn't seen for yonks, or rarely see. One of the Bishop's canons provided a delicious soup and scrummy bread and a variety of cheeses, with dried fruit and nuts.

2. Medical offices. "What is she, crazy?" you're thinking. I know health care is a big topic right now and no way I'm getting into that, because I don't like to get political or even that topical on my blog. But this is my Medical Season, when every annual sort of examination or test takes place.

I had one such appointment last week and 3 this week and 2 more next week. Each time I show up at the designated time, and before I even have a chance to sit down in the waiting room, I'm taken to the exam room. There's virtually no wait for the personnel--nurse or doctor. I have to say that I'm incredibly impressed--and appreciative--of this efficiency and good time management. I'm also one of the blessed 80% of Americans happy with her health insurance, so that part goes smoothly as well, and I don't take it for granted.

3. Summer in September. It has been so incredibly warm for much of this week. Even at night. Colder weather will return, but it was fun wearing sandal-type shoes again today!

3. Foliage, foliage, foliage. We're really only in the prelude to autumn colour, but so far it's absolutely lovely.

4. The terrain.

For my eye doctor appointment I was at the big shopping area for Concord. Total retail sprawl, identical to Any City, USA. And literally from the mall parking lot I shot this photo:

Not bad for a mall parking lot. Rather picturesque, in fact. Trees and water: God's landscaping.

This heron was catching fish.

Nice yellow-green combo.

5. The bishops of our diocese. I was standing at the Lancome counter writing a check when a I heard a gentleman call out my name, quite loudly--our retired bishop. Our current one presided at Clergy Day, but unexpectedly I got to see the other one, which is always a treat. Even--and especially--in unexpected places.

6. Weird stuff. I was at a stoplight when I checked my rear view mirror and saw this spectacle, for which I have no explanation whatsoever.

Believe me, my car was not in motion when I took that rear window picture.

7. Did I mention the foliage and landscape? Here's a boggy spot quite near the Lodge.

That's only 7 reasons I love New Hampshire. There are so many more.

One of my great accmplishments of today was purchasing a pair of jeans. Since losing 30 pounds, my old ones don't exactly fit well. I wasn't all that happy with them before losing the weight. It's so hard to find the Perfect Pair, and I have a lamentaable tendency to settle for something not exactly perfect.

At the department store they were having a mondo sale, plus by donating 4 items of clothing to Goodwill at the store I received 8 20% off coupons. I noticed that Calvin Klein jeans were on sale. It's been forever since I wore that brand so I picked 3 likely sizes. The first one fit perfectly. Not too tight, not too baggy, not too long, not too anything else. And with the sale discount and the coupon discount, it was a super price.

So, yet again I own a pair size 8 Calvins, just like I had when I was, like, 16. I find this rather funny. In a good way!

Dinner party tomorrow night. Back to the Lake this weekend, probably without man or beasts, for another writing marathon.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Musical Monday: The Last (Full) Day of Summer.

The Chap visited us cottagers yesterday, bringing the Sunday paper (and lots of others I hadn't yet seen), and some provisions. The 48-hour gale was over.

Our plan was to dine out for a late lunch/early dinner. So we loaded the girls in the car.

Ruth forgot her shades.

Swamp maples on the road to Wolfeboro.

We went to El Centenario, and the food was excellent as always. The guacamole made at tableside is a real treat.

Last night I watched The Emmys. Some surprises. The husband of film/tv series actress I knew in a former life went home with a statue. I was happy whenever Mad Men won, or 30 Rock but wish The Office and House could've won also.

Then I watched the 2nd broadcast of Mad Men. Good grief! In my opinion it actually lived up to the critical hype as the "best MM episode to date."

Past 2 days were rather light in terms of writing productivity. I'm not surprised after the marathon of writing about a royal death and funeral. But I seem to be back on track now.

Here's The Cure performing The Last Day of Summer. Because as far as I'm concerned is--the last full one. The Autumnal Equinox occurs tomorrow at 5:18 p.m.

And n a similar vein, here's Cousteau:

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dispatch from the Wind Tunnel

Dock flags on this very windy day, the second in a row. The one in the foreground is ours.

All day yesterday, last night, and all today a gale has roared here in the Bay. The day temperature has been cool but not too cold, although the constant sound of blowing wind makes me feel chilly. I keep indoors except when the dogs and I take our walks, buffeted by the breezes. Sitting on the porch is no longer comfortable. Maybe it's time to install the glass windows over the screens, but usually we don't do that till closing-up for winter. Because there's always the hope of Indian Summer!

This morning the girls woke me up at 7:15 for their breakfast and brief outdoor foray. As usual, we all returned to bed, and on the way I turned on the radio. Fell asleep sometime after 8 o'clock, after Scott Simon and Weekend Edition Saturday started. I woke again at 9:15. (Sounds lazy, I know, but I was up very late last night writing, then reading in bed.)

Scott had gone silent. I realised the radio was off. Glanced over at the electric blanket control--indicator light was out. From this I deduced that the power was off, probably caused by the high winds. Wasn't sure when it went out...the bottom bit of the electric blanket, covering my feet, was still sort of warm.

I lay there, and decided I had two options: a) pack up and return to the Lodge, or b) climb out of bed and phone the electric co-op to report the outage and get back in bed and wait for the power to be restored.

The last time I chose b was during last December's ice storm, when I spent five damn days shivering under blankets.

I used the bedroom phone so I could stay covered up in bed while on hold. After about 10 minutes a nice man picked up and I told him my problem and location.

"Yes, we've already sent a crew," he told me.

"So other people in my area have called in?" (Duh, it was after 9:30 a.m. and most people were already well into their Saturday.)

"About eight hundred of them."

Wow--so more than our secluded, private, tree-lined road was affected. "Well, thanks, and good luck to the crew." Not a pleasant day for the linemen, who had to be out in the wind.

Back to sleep I went. Woke up at 10:40 feeling warm and cosy--my electric blanket was working again. Problem solved--thanks, linemen!

By that time I was hungry but after sleeping most of the morning (and the night) the girls wanted their exercise. So we headed into the gale for our first walk of the day. It's really a lovely day--if you don't mind strong wind.

After a late start, we're back to our usual routine of me on the sofa, writing on the laptop, a sleeping Jewel pressed against me, my own personal canine heating pad, and Ruth at the other end of the sofa curled on her favourite cushion.

I'll be writing happier scenes today. Lately I've been mired in gloom, handling a death scene and funeral stuff and a sad scene that took place here:

Friday, September 18, 2009

On Leaving Springfield

Today marked the final broadcast of Guiding Light.

I first entered Springfield in my childhood, in a negligible fashion. Our maid kept the tv on when she was cooking, doing laundry, ironing, cleaning. The soaps were just about the only thing on during the daytime back then. The tv was always tuned to CBS because of the good reception--our one and only tv station was an affiliate. As I grew older, I started paying attention to what was happening on the screen, but Guiding Light was just one of the many soaps that gave me a glimpse of the "real world." You know, with instant preganancies and secret babies and evil wealthy megalomaniac patriarchs and schemers and bigamists and people dying and then showing up again at a really bad moment--usually for a wedding.

In college one of my theatre professors was a huge GL fan. He was always going on about Roger and Holly. At the time I was only watching Another World but once in a while I would catch GL, especially if my professor said it was going to be a big day for some Roger Thorpe action. Which is how I happened to see him fall off the cliff.

In grad school my soap watching declined. AW came on at an inconvenient time, so it went by the wayside. But GL was on later in the afternoon. I discovered it one day when I came back to my apartment from a lecture or teaching or something, and switched on the telly. I don't remember exactly what was going on in Springfield at that particular time--but that one episode hooked me. Roger was still dead...only one day he showed up again, and all hell broke loose.

I've been watching ever since. GL has been a part of my life for almost as long as the Chap.

After leaving university it was an important part of my working day. I'd take a writing break at 2 or 3 p.m. and watch GL in real time. When we moved to NH from Colorado, I did the same. The Chap and I were both working at home then. He'd sometimes wander through the sitting room during the GL hour, and got familiar with some characters and storylines. At some point Boston's CBS afiliate switched the time from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m. I started recording the show, and we'd watch it together in the evening.

When we were in New York a few years ago for a novelists' conference, strolling near Broadway, it was my husband who suddenly said, "Hey, look, it's Josh!" And indeed, it was Robert Newman, who paused and chatted with us.

Last year, at the same conference, I had another GL encounter with head writer Jill Hurst, one of our keynoters. There was a lottery for a studio tour--my number wasn't drawn.

As everyone knows, it's the longest-running soap, dating back 70-something years, because it started on radio.

I look back fondly on the days when the Bauers, the Reardons, and the Chamberlins were the central families. Then came the Lewises and the Spauldings and the Coopers and the Raineses, who for years have been front and centre. With an addition of the Hispanic Santos crime family and the black Cosby-esque Boudreaux family, in which nearly everyone was a doctor at Cedars Hospital until one day one of them decided to also become a lawyer. After almost instantly passing the bar and getting her law licence she miraculously practised both professions with astonishing success. (But of course her marriage failed.) At least two female characters on the show not only married the brother of their true love but also the father. Nearly every union resulted in offspring, which then necessitated SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) whereby the tot is rapidly aged, or the child is sent to boarding school (usually overseas) and the following year returns as a young adult ready for a romantic story line of his/her own.

As a true and abiding fan I've often been frustrated with the show's direction and with certain characters in particular. A lot of the light went out for me when Michael Zaslow (Roger) left, later dying of ALS. In recent years the plotlines have been so boneheaded that I think back longingly to the days of the Dreaming Death epidemic, or when Josh had Reva cloned, or people were leaping through a painting to go back in time to solve a crime or murder. Producers and writers created idiotic plots and willfully disregarded backstory and cherished history. Favourite actors left for other soaps. My emotional engagement decreased....over the past two weeks it flickered into life again but it wasn't the same because I knew it was about to be over. For good.

Even so, I stuck it out until this morning, when, after the final scene a graphic flashed stating "The End."

In some ways the conclusion was satisfying. In many ways it was not. Makes no difference. I'll just say "thanks" to everyone responsible for the good memories and I'll consider someday forgiving those responsible for the bad memories and the ratings plunge that resulted in cancellation. Bitter much? Well, yes, I am. Quite a lot, actually. I feel robbed and cheated. I'd rather Procter & Gamble and CBS had committed to saving the show instead of killing it. I think it was possible....

I considered following favourite players who found homes on other shows. But it just doesn't feel right, so looks like I'm done with soaps.


I came up to the lake a few days ago. Don't think I've seen a single boat on the water since I got here. The new green roof looks very nice. I'm getting a lot of writing done but they are tragic scenes mostly. The air is chilly when the dogs and I our twice-daily walks, and I use the furnace sometimes. Today it's really windy. The Chap is coming up sometime this weekend and taking me out to dinner but probably not staying overnight.

When I saw this picture of a dog who looks exactly like Jewel, I got suspicious. Checked to make sure all the paper money I've got is intact.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mid-Week Colour

When we built the local library--and I say "we" with meaning, as the Chap and I were major donors as well as active on the Building Committee--we included plenty of wall space for art exhibits. The current exhibit features a local quilt maker and on Sunday I had a chance to take photographs of her hand-stitched quilts.

This one is by far my favourite.

Close-up of the central motif.

A more vibrant and non-traditional pattern.

I like this flower basket, too. The roses are very well done.

Yesterday was a marathon of meetings--from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. I had 1 legislative, 3 diocesan, 1 music lesson, 1 other. All but one were very positive and pleasant and informative.

It's back to the Big Lake for me and the girls at some point today. After my manic Tuesday, I'll be glad of the peace and quiet and solitude!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Musical Monday

After the memorial gathering at the lake cottage and my newspaper interview/photo shoot with a reporter about the now-published cookbook (in it's 3rd printing I think), we had a supper of Singapore Curry Noodle from Ping. Watched Mad Men and then the conclusion of a reality-tv show because a sibling of one of my husband's work colleagues was still competetive. (And ended up winning the loot.)

I only got round to eating my fortune cookie at lunchtime today. It's said, "You must share your happiness with others." So I've been thinking of how exactly I can do that, and came up with this. If it doesn't make you smile, or LOL, then your funny bone needs work.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Stroll: Searching for Charlotte

Since returning to the Lodge at mid-week, I've missed my outdoor "office mate." Charlotte the giant spider (at 2+ inches from toe to toe of her longest legs) has been absent from her amazing large web. Here's a photo taken 3 weeks ago.

For my Sunday stroll I decided to wander my way through the Lodge gardens, photographing flowers, to the backyard to see if Charlotte had moved house, buiding some other web nearby.

But before going outside, I admired the fuchsia, one of many sympathy plants given us when my father-in-law passed away in mid-June, now blooming again. Quite timely, for there's a second memorial service for him this afternoon, here in NH.

It's bright today but rained yesterday, as will be apparent from the pictures.

Geranium on the deck.

Cupani's Original, the fragrant 17th century annual sweetpea created by a monk.

Down the steps, tall garden phlox.

Turtle head plant.


My perennial sweetpea. I planted the regular mauve coloured one...

then this White Pearl...

...which cross-polinated to create this varicoloured pinkish version!


Alba rugosa.

Like the sweetpeas, they created a pinkish offspring, which isn't flowering at the moment.

Rugosa hips.

In the grass, a mushroom.

Lots of them, in fact.

This one looks like something you'd see through a telescope, it has a planetary aspect.

The heather.

My honeysuckle is still budding and flowering.

At last I reach Charlotte's web. It's empty, in bad repair with holes, raindrops hanging from the fibers. No sign of my large, vivid friend. Any reader of E.B. White's classic story knows the eventual fate of spiders.

But I felt sure Charlotte had left behind a gift, so I started looking for it. And at the point where the web was attached to the side of the house, I saw this:

The egg sac.

Thank you Charlotte, for living your short but beautiful life within my gaze.

Rest in peace.

Thanks for visiting. To keep strolling, head in this direction!

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Longest Morning

This is just about the only day of the year when I turn on my television before 4 p.m. Eight years ago today, here at the Lodge all alone, with husband on business trip and parents in Scotland and brother far away and no form of human support or interaction except via computer, I kept all our tv's on, plus a radio in every room.

So this morning in the kitchen I switched on the little digital tv, to pick up a network morning program. On NBC, CBS, and ABC the hosts of morning chat were yukking it up right at 8:45. I was royally pissed. I raced downstairs to the satellite tv and tuned into MSNBC in time for the White House observance of the moment of silence, and Mayor Bloomberg's opening remarks at Ground Zero.

I'm now watching the annual re-broadcast of the events of the longest morning of my life. MSNBC is showing the Today Show of 9/11/01 in real time. Commercial free.

It's a grey morning. Sometimes it's the same crystal-perfect that it was 8 years ago, when I was lying in bed and heard on NPR that "a small commuter plane" might have struck a New York landmark.

I've blogged this day before. My emotions and memories are still as strong as ever...but there's no need to repeat myself. My 9-11 experience and reflections can be found here:


Dividing Line

It's not hyperbole to say that my life changed 8 years ago today. At the time I understand that America would be changed. The impact upon my personal life revealed itself in the weeks and months afterwards.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Who's Left?

Here on the Big Lake, it's just me and the year-round residents. And the workers.

Yesterday at several houses along our road and the adjoining one, I saw handymen and roofers and siding installers. The summer people departed on Monday. On Tuesday came the repair crews to work on their unhabitated houses or cottages, and fix up their docks.

I've hardly sighted a single boat all day. A little while ago a barge passed by, with equipment used for dock or other shore work.

My house is silent also, and very still--I left the dogs at the Lodge. Yesterday morning we zipped down there to meet Aqua Boy, the guy who maintains our water filtration system. He replaced some parts to repair a leak. When he finished I headed to town for my mandolin lesson, and came straight back to the cottage. I made a big circle...or more like an ellipse.

Even though technically we're not "summer people"--we use our place in 3 of the 4 seasons--we have a contacted the furnace guy to fix a problem, and want at least one more estimate for the part of the roof that needs replacing. Our winter preparations aren't yet as frantic as the squirrels and chipmunks hoarding the huge crop of acorns. But with the leaves already turning, the coming colder weather is on our minds. Somewhat.

Monday, September 07, 2009

On the Water

The Chap and I had a boat ride with friends. It was the perfect day for it. We went up our Bay, and cruised along the eastern lake shore to nearby bays, and zipped across the Broads, bouncing from wave to wave. The image stabilisation setting on my camera proved its merits!

Wind tunnel hair.

View from The Broads.

Coming out of a cove, northwest mountain views. I'd just missed getting a loon shot--he went underwater to avoid the publicity of being blogged!

At the top of our Bay, western side. To the left is a little island with a lovely white house, boathouse, and lighthouse.

After cruising down our Bay and past the Point, we worked our way back up to our dock. So many trees, you can barely tell there's a cottage perched on the hillside.

Here's our route in red.

We then gathered at our neighbours' cottage for drinks and snacks and chat. Felt like a family reunion.

The girls behaved beautifully while we were away, but they were overjoyed to see us--they got their supper a bit later than usual. After a meal and a treat and some cuddles they forgave us.