"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, January 31, 2010

Sunday Stroll: Feeding Time

My morning routine includes feeding the birds--before I feed myself. I re-fill the small feeder with safflower seeds for the chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, cardinals, and lately winter goldfinches. Then I fling bread crumbs and cracked corn on the ground for the jays and juncoes and anyone who feeds down below.

Almost as soon as I step onto the deck, the jays swarm in for their food.

Today the grey squirrels came in greater numbers than usual.

One in the tree.

Another on the ground.

I counted four in all, before we had to leave for church.

Candlemas preparations.

This was the day of our parish Annual Meeting, at which we receive reports and elect officers and other members of leadership. Oh, and the Vestry feeds us brunch/lunch!

We had two types of soup--a curry butternut squash soup, plus a chowder of corn and potatoes. Here's my trinity of bowls--

That's not all I ate. I had mixed nuts and caramel kettle popcorn and a couple of brownies afterwards.

After the meeting adjourned we headed for the car wash to clean off my honourable automobile.

After two days of waking up to 0 degrees on the thermometer and intense wind chill, we're enjoying this balmy (?!) 23 degree day. The Chap just returned from walking the girls...a far more pleasant afternoon for it than yesterday.

Thanks for strolling with me on this Sunday. To continue, visit Aisling's blog.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Commentary & Conversation

A couple of days ago I received notice that Haloscan, the comments widget I've used for years, will cease to exist on February 11. This is extremely unsettling news, coming at a most inconvenient time. I've investigated Echo, the paid replacement of Haloscan. Don't much like it. User comments are not encouraging. I considered signing on with a yearly subscription--I'd gladly pay 10 bucks to buy a only few more months to figure out what to do. My priorities right now are my legislative responsibilities (it's the busy season), my novel, diocesan commitments, my personal life (all the stuff I mostly don't share here), and being a supportive and available friend. Depending on the day, the hierarchy of importance changes.

But...did I say I really don't like Echo?

I've customised my original Blogger template to the point that I don't think I can easily resurrect the Blogger comment feature. Even if I could, I can't import my archive of Haloscan comments. I've looked into Wordpress as an option, I think I can import Haloscan. Not sure about the Blog template. My author website host has blogging software but I've never used it. Getting up to speed with it or with Wordpress would be extremely time-consuming during weeks when I have not a moment to spare.

My investigations turned up the interesting fact that some Blogger/Haloscan folk are cutting and pasting their archives of visitor comments directly into the old blogposts to preserve them. That's an easy workaround...except that I've written over 1000 posts here. And while my comments section doesn't begin to reflect actual visitor numbers, just opening up the majority of my posts to insert the comments is a mind-boggling operation. Especially right now. Even if I did it selectively. There's a chance I could harvest my archive from the Haloscan website (while it still exists) and save the comments in a document and export them at a later date, over time.

It's hard for me to put into words how greatly I value the comments I receive here. I've never cared about the volume or frequency of comments, but I do cherish every single one. They provide the connection with my blog visitors, and create a sense of community and friendship that is, for me, extremely important. I have been touched and oh, so grateful for things people said in times of joy (progress on the book, election or re-election, birthdays, anniversaries, achievements) or sadness (loss of a pet or family member or close friend). I share with you my activities, thoughts, my photos, my dogs' antics, my gardens, my lake views, and when you reply it becomes a conversation.

The prospect of losing the record of that conversation on a date certain makes me want to weep. I remind myself that the internet is both permanent and ephemeral. Blogs I used to read regularly have vanished without a trace. Others remain, dormant for years, preserved in amber.

Going with Haloscan was a calculated risk for me and a lot of others. I wish I'd received the announcement sooner...apparently the changeover has been known since December. I can't explain why I am the last to know.

I'm not sure what to do about the archive. I'm not sure what I can do in the time left.

I'll keep up my investigations, hoping for quick and not-to-complicated solution. But I have to admit my optimism is waning.

So all I'll say for now is thank you, thank you to everyone who responds to my postings. There will most certainly be a platform for comments in the future...but I have no idea what will happen with all those meaningful ones from the past.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Stroll: Turkey Trot!

The week ended pleasantly, with fun, food, fellowship, baking birthday cake for people I do not know and a party I was not even attending, and knitting.

On Friday in addition to errands my Friend From The North Country and I stopped at the Chap's office for a tour, and a quick visit to Michael's to pick up gold stars and dots. When we exited the store this is what we saw, and she took this photo with her new camera:

My progress on knitting my scarf is nothing short of scary! I seem to be a compulsive knitter, and therefore I have nearly got through my entire ball of yarn. I need more to make the scarf longer, so today I will yet again stop by Michael's for more. However, I'm putting away the knitting until Wednesday's legislative session...I need to be finishing up my revisions!

Today on the way to church, we saw turkeys.

There were 10 of them in all, 9 of which can be seen in this photo.

A photo of the statue in the park beside our church.

After the service we stayed for the annual budget review meeting, which was short and sweet.

On the drive home--more turkeys!

We met 4 more, 3 of which can be seen in this photo.

I've reported my sightings to the NH Winter Turkey Flock Survey for the NH Fish & Game Department.

I'm driving my FFTNC to the aiport this afternoon. I think she'll be astonished, and pleased (perhaps even alarmed) by the knitting monster she created.

If you'd like to continue trotting, um, strolling along, head over to Aisling's blog for links to other strollers.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Look What I Did!

Very busy day yesterday. The State of the State was not at all the downer I expected, in fact it was quite progressive--in the forward-looking but not the spendy sense --and pragmatic. Lots of applause and standing ovations for the Governor. And my FFTNC was in the gallery, and witnessed the Gov's comments about supporting enterprise in the North Country.

Immediately afterwards she and I headed over to the Thai restaurant on Main Street. Then we went shopping. At Michael's I went a little nuts and bought some pretty yarn and a pair of knitting needles with the thought that my FFTNC could teach me to knit. For supper we had tilapia and garlic smashed potatoes and salad and the awesome raspberry sorbet.

After supper I had my knitting lesson. I'm left-handed and my teacher is right-handed, but we got that sorted. She taught me to knit Continental style, while the Chap was laughing at us in the background.

I persevered, and by bedtime I had completed the section of scarf that you see above. "I made a shawl for a mouse!" was my gleeful description.

I'm supposed to be revising a novel and playing mandolin and carrying out other responsibilities. I'm not quite sure where knitting is going to fit into my life. But at least I know I can do it.

Attending the NH Sheep and Wool Festival in May will be really different this year. For me it won't any longer be only about the sheep and the sheepdogs. I can also get excited about wool and yarn!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Looks Like January Round Here

On Monday our snowfall total was about 8 inches.

Yesterday was a grey and snowy day. I had public hearings in committee all morning, and an executive session of several of last week's bills in the afternoon. Received perhaps an additional 3 inches.

Being a little tiny dog, Ruth harbours concerns about excessive snow depth. Here she is this morning, letting us know that another inch had fallen overnight.

Jewel patrols the deck.

The morning after a nice snow can be so extremely picturesque, truly spirit-lifting.

Today in committee we had another public hearing, which attracted many, many members of the public who came to listen and to testify. We started at 10 and adjourned on time at 12.30. The halls of the Legislative Office Building were crammed with citizens participating in democracy today. The Chap was supposed to have been monitoring a Finance Committee bill, and though I went looking right before our hearing started, I never saw him. And if he came looking for me, he probably couldn't get into the room! Standing room only.

By the time I got back to the Lodge the snow was falling again, much to Ruth's dismay. I just shovelled another inch off the main deck. The birds are swarming our feeders.

Our Friend From The North Country will be here for a couple of nights or more. The dogs will be thrilled, and spoilt with attention.

Tomorrow the Governor gives his annual State of the State address to a joint session of House and Senate. As an inveterate optimist who also has access to an overabundance of information about New Hampshire, I must say that good things and even progress are indeed happening here. And yet if I had to give a State of the State address, my headline would be pithy: "Not So Good." Sub-headine: "Mostly due to factors beyond control." The sub-sub headline is: "Compared to other U.S. states, we're damned fortunate." My recommendation: "Proceed with Caution."

I have a feeling most of that will be expressed tomorrow morning in Reps Hall, and it will take an hour. Fifteen minutes of ceremony, which includes the Pledge, the National Anthem, introductions of political and other VIPs and honoured guests. And then the Governor's speech. You can tell I've been through this before....But not my FFTNC, who may be watching it all from the gallery.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Snow Day & Holiday

On this Martin Luther King holiday we find ourselves snow-bound at the Lodge. Our accumulation matches--or exceeds--the predictions for our area. As evidence, I present:

the deck.

the horse head statue.

the honeysuckle arbor.

I could also offer up a short video of dogs snow-romping, but it differs not at all from previous versions. The Chap is about to take them for a nice walk through the wintry wonderland.

A perfect day to refine my manuscript and rest up from last week and in preparation for the various activities of this one.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Stroll: Seasonal Sights

AWOL for a week...I know. It's unprecedented. As you might suppose, I was excessively busy.

Tuesday: Chairs & Vice Chairs meeting. Wednesday: I left home at 8:45 p.m. and didn't return till 7: 30 p.m. Very lengthy House session during which we voted out all the retained bills by deadline. Thursday: first day of public hearings in my committee--6 of them, 2 of which I chaired. One related to clamming in Hampton and Seabrook and one related to processing lobsters for food, so it was a good thing my Friend from the North Country and I had already planned to have dinner at a seafood restaurant after our Diocesan Council meeting. (Newick's in Concord.) Oh, and I chaired the Council meeting, too, and it ended a bit early--also good.

FFTNC spent both Thursday and Friday night at the Lodge. Friday afternoon was spent in Concord for shopping and mandolin lesson (temperature in the 40's!), and we cooked up a gourmet dinner that evening.

Here's the salad.

And the Spicy Garlic Shrimp (a Thai recipe) which I'd never made before. It got rave reviews!

Yesterday...FFTNC and I kept busy with diocesan work. The Chap walked the dogs and did other good things about the Lodge. It was a gorgeous sunny mild day, about 45 degrees. I think we've had our January thaw...rather short-lived, but most welcome.

Which brings me to today, and an honest-to-goodness outdoor Sunday Stroll.

Despite recent melting, branches of saplings are still buried in snow cover. It looks like they're sprouting up, but in fact they are leaning over and the tips (on the left-ish side) are bent downward and the branch angles are pointing in the opposite way they should be.

Another "mess with your head" photo. It's hard to see against the white background, but a nest of snow formed among the branches of my Therese Bugnet rugosa rose and the vines of my perennial sweet pea.

Sedum rising up from the snow.

Interesting smells on No-Name Snow Mountain entice Jewel.

Ruth is similarly occupied on Wolf Mountain.

Our church service was lovely...Gospel lesson was the Marriage at Cana, and the rector preached on that, beautifully. After the service the Chap had a brief Vestry meeting, so I had time to photograph the sanctuary. Especially our stained glass windows.

View of the little lake.

Party of ice fishermen were out when we came home. I took the photo from the "beach" but in fact I can see them from our windows, they are actually fishing in our "front yard."

Needless to say, manuscript revision was a back-burner activity for much of the week though there was some productivity. I was playing catch-up last night and will continue today and tomorrow. I do plan to watch CNN at 6:00 for the Haiti worship service at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. Our Presiding Bishop will be--well, presiding.

Our January thaw came to an abrupt halt about 30 minutes ago when the snow began falling, heavily and steadily--a lot sooner than expected. We are supposed to get many inches. Fortunately the Chap has a day off tomorrow for the Martin Luther King holiday. I have a day at home as well but will be working steadily.

Thanks very much for strolling with me. To continue, visiting Aisling's blog.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday Stroll: Elegy

The news came yesterday morning via the local public radio station, before I was fully conscious. Stephen Huneck, the Vermont artist and children's author and dog-lover, crossed the border to NH and committed suicide. For so many reasons I was overwhelmed with grief.

Only a few weeks ago, while Christmas shopping, we stopped in a Portsmouth gallery that features Huneck's doggy art and notecards. We've visited the Dog Chapel on Dog Mountain (near St. Johnsbury, Vermont) more than once.

I can't think of a better tribute than posting photos of that amazing site as today's Sunday Stroll.

the Dog Chapel

Decoration on the steeple, a gilded labrador angel.

the dog steeple at the Dog Chapel

welcome sign

The walls of the Dog Chapel vestibule display vistors' written and photo tributes to their late dogs.

tributes to dogs, entrance to Dog Chapel

On our very first visit, the interiour walls were bare.

interior of the Dog Chapel

On a later visit, they were almost entirely covered.

one of the stained glass windows featuring a dog

carved dog heads on pedestals on the grounds of the Dog Chapel

Weathervane on the shop/gallery.

The black lab's name is Sally. In Huneck world, black labs are iconic, and always called Sally.

The shop and gallery are open to four-legged customers.

an item in the shop

Bathroom faucet and sink. If you pull down on the dog's tail, the water pours from its mouth.

bathroom faucet and sink inside the gallery/shop

handrail and benches in front of the gallery/shop

I hope and pray that despite the financial difficulties that contributed to Huneck's depression, the unique ministry and enterprise atop Dog Mountain can continue.

Simultaneously I've been dealing with doggy matters closer to home.

On Friday afternoon as I returned from my music lesson and Concord errands, I saw two unfamiliar dogs running loose on our private road. Heading towards the Lodge I met, between our two drives, a large black lab and a pug dog. I assumed they belonged to a new-ish neighbour. I further assumed that they were walking with their owner and had run ahead of of him/her. Ruth and Jewel, aware of the near-trespass, were barking crazily in their enclosure. When I brought them inside the house they ran from window to window, on high alert.

In the evening, well after dark and around suppertime, the owner of the dogs stopped by, frantically searching for her lost pug. She told the Chap that the pair had somehow got loose. Her black lab returned home on his own but the pug hadn't. She was searching the neighbourhood on foot, trudging through the fresh inch of snow. It was about four hours after I'd sighted the runaways.

It was the coldest night of the year so far. The woods are a dangerous place for domestic animals. All night long I tossed and turned, worrying about the pug. As we drove about the state yesterday on numerous errands--purchasing snow tires for the Chap, shopping at Macy's and Target, dining at La Carreta--I was alternately grieving Stephen Huneck and wondering about the pug's fate.

When we came home the Chap rang the neighbour's number to check in, but he'd mis-copied it. As he was taking the girls for a a walk before sundown anyway, he decided they'd stroll all the way to the end of the road to seek news about the pug.

Good intentions sometimes have bad consequences.

On the positive side, he found out that the pug returned safely home on Friday night.

On the negative side, the dogs (2 pugs and the lab) were running loose when he stopped by. Our dogs are always on leash. The lab lunged at Jewel. In a frantic moment of separating them the Chap didn't realise that the lab's jaws had made contact with Jewel's right leg.

Just before feeding time I spotted the tiny bloody nicks along her leg and on one toe. She was limping slightly and a more thorough examination showed why--there was a small but alarmingly deep slash at the back of her leg above the paw. I applied pressure to the wound and eventually the bleeding subsided. After a while she wasn't limping any more.

All my fretting about dogs resulted in a very strange dream...in which Ruth chewed through the screen of my laptop. I don't know what subliminal issues this represents, it's beyond my ability to interpret.

Jewel exhibits no adverse effects from her accident yesterday, apart from some exploratory licking of her front leg.

At this very moment the Chap and the girls are heading out on today's walk...I'm trying not to be nervous. I know where they won't be strolling!

I wish all dogs and dog owners a happy and a very safe Sunday. And everyone else, too.

Thanks for stopping by, and if you want to continue strolling carry on to Aisling's blog. For more information about the work of the late, great Stephen Huneck, visit the Dog Mountain site.