My garden is equal parts solace and frustration.
In my newest novel, St. Helens in the Mix, Todd and Lucy’s new neighbors in the duplex they share at the edge of a town in the Ozarks soon introduce a world of fresh horizons and mutual discovery. Their friendship with Erik and Jaya, who appeared earlier in my novel Promise, faces its own tests, even before the two couples are sent reeling. When a lucky job opening allows them to reunite in the Pacific Northwest, much that was left unfinished slowly rekindles when they once again become neighbors. This time, they’re living downwind from the volcano. The one masked in ice and snow.
As Lucy explains in my novel St. Helens in the Mix:
We walked about a bit, and he pointed out the groves of apples, peaches, pears, and plums, as well as the cherries and hop fields below. He tried to explain the irrigation systems and water rights legalities, which pretty much confused me. What I realized was that this land was quite different from what I’d known all my life.
“Erik?” I finally said. “Just remember. It was your idea.”
“Yeah, but you were the one who took the first step, as I recall.”
Well, maybe. Jaya made a move, too.
What I could be sure of was that it wasn’t Todd, even though I think he gained the most from the experience.
We took our shoes off on the porch.
For a free copy of my newest novel, click here.
The custom of publishing the journals of influential Friends was no doubt intended to encourage others to strive for exemplary service. The journals themselves form a curious genre – part diary, part autobiography, part memoir viewed from the vantage of advanced age, part travelogue (often tediously so, unless you’re looking for individuals and places being visited), part glimmers of spiritual brilliance – often published after the specific Friend’s death and at the direction of a yearly meeting. Closely related is our custom of memorial minutes.
Best known are the journals of George Fox, spanning the initial decades of the Quaker movement, and John Woolman, whose lifelong mission essentially ended the ownership of slaves among Friends before the Revolutionary War. Both works are in our meeting library and highly recommended.
But there’s a host of others, as you’ll find digging around.
Like the journals themselves, collections of writings or of journal excepts serve as similar prophetic inspiration. For instance, Terry S. Wallace’s A Sincere and Constant Love: an Introduction to the Work of Margaret Fell allows us to look into the remarkable thinking of the woman who became George Fox’s wife and confidant and did much to shape the emerging Friends organization. (How I wish we had a similar cache of material for Elizabeth Hooten, who mothered Quakerism from its very beginning! No such records, unfortunately, are known to have survived.)
For now, let me name one other volume in our collection: Wilt Thou Go on My Errand? Three 18th Century Journals of Quaker Women Ministers edited by Margaret Hope Bacon.
There’s also a host of books and pamphlets that put the lives of Fox, Fell, and Woolman in context or add to their outpouring – too many, in fact, to detail here.
Glancing out the dining room window this morning, I realized there was something my wife should see. So it was something like, “Hey, Honey, you need to take a look.”
There was no snow in our yard. None. Nada. The last of it had melted overnight.
Even by New England standards, this has been an exhausting winter. Usually, it’s either below-normal cold or above-average snowy. Not both, not like this one. I don’t remember this many single-digit and subzero nights, and here on the seacoast, our year’s total snowfall came to more than nine feet. Boston, as you may know, had the most in its weather history, beginning somewhere in the 1880s, I think.
And then there were all the Sundays when church services were cancelled — it was just too dangerous to get out on the slick roads. Well, I’m told we did have a few people show up on cross country skis to sit in silent worship.
New Englanders are usually a hardy lot and simply suck up to the weather. But for the past month, there’s been grumbling. Lots of it. This endless oppression really dampens the spirit. Do I want to write? Nah. Read, nah, except that I have read some powerful novels lately. I am finally swimming laps indoors, but that’s a big effort that leaves me ready to do … nah. As for the indoor house projects? Where’s the energy?
On top of it, this has been a winter of funerals for us. A few parents of high school students. Others my age or older — cancer, pneumonia, Parkinson’s, a brain infection. It’s not our usual experience.
I’ll have to check, but my memory suspects we had snow in November and I know there was more in early December, which unfortunately melted off by Christmas. But the pattern returned in January and just kept coming. Just as we thought we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel, three fresh inches hit us Wednesday and Thursday, which means snow’s fallen here in six straight months. And you thought winter was three?
As a matter of clarity, let’s remember the greenhouse warning was not “global warming” per se but “climatic instability,” which we’re seeing in aces. Many of our snowfalls had me wishing the precipitation was instead piling up in the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, where it’s needed to sustain the orchards as irrigation water all summer. Those folks have solid reason to worry.
Here, spring’s coming late, contrary to some of the photos I’ve been posting — the one’s showing what would be happening in a normal year. The ones I scheduled based on past calendars.
Still, the warmth is returning. The sound of lusty birds greets the dawn, along with Harley-Davidsons through the day and early evening.
Two afternoons now have been warm enough to sit in the loft of the barn and curl up with a martini and a Paris Review — and look up through the open hay door to view a parade of dogs walking people past the end of our driveway.
At the moment, it’s mid-morning gray and drizzle — a reminder of Puget Sound, for me — with temperatures in the 60s. Good opportunity to run to the beach to collect seaweed for mulching the garden.
Now that’s a true sign of spring.
Barb Knowles of the blog saneteachers has nominated me for a Real Neat Blog award, and I thank her for the nod. If you’re not yet familiar with her site, let me tell you that anyone who knows what an Oxford comma is ranks high in my book — especially after all of those years as a journalist when I couldn’t use them on my paying job, contrary to my own standards. Here, though, things are different.
Allow me to confess, though, I’m of mixed mind when it comes to these awards. On one hand, WordPress (especially) is filled with marvelous bloggers who deserve wider recognition. On the other hand, I’ve found that trying to nominate others can be, well, embarrassing when you find they’ve already received that award somewhere in their past, even before coming up with fresh questions.
A while back I resolved to pass on these things, but then the temptation of participating can be fun. And then there’s that matter of time itself, which on this end will soon involve some major home and garden projects. Alas.
So here I am, looking at the seven questions, which I’ll tackle. But for now, I’ll wait before nominating others or coming up with seven new questions for them. Unless, of course, you’d like me to nominate you (go ahead, be bold and ask). After all, if you’re dropping by the Barn, you’re already cool — in all due humility. Any volunteers?
If you were alone on a deserted island with only one book, which would it be?
Make it the Bible. Not for the reasons most folks would assume — like what God’s trying to tell us. Rather, there’s plenty to chew on here about just being human, pro and con. And Wycliffe and Tyndale (those courageous early translators) do shape our English language, more than Shakespeare, actually. Your followup question would be which translation to pack, and there I’m stumped — I use many, each one adding nuances to the close-to-the-grain sources. By the way, are we to assume it’s a long stay on that island?
What is your favorite color and why?
Blue. Intense electric blue, the shade befitting Aquarius, the color of the clearest sky. Or its cousin, cobalt, the call of the North Atlantic on a clear day a few miles from where I live.
I like favorites, so what is your favorite song?
Since you didn’t ask about symphonies or sonatas or operas or chamber works, I’ll look at song as something that’s sung — in a form other than the traditional A-A-B-A musical form plus verses. (Bet you weren’t expecting that response!)
As a baritone in a choir, I’d put Sicut cervus, a Palestrina motet from the Renaissance, up there, along with a fuguing-tune anthem, Euroclydon, by the Colonial American William Billings.
Now you have me wondering about having the whole choir on that desert island. The plot thickens.
If you could make a memory, what would it be?
Our first grandkid. Leading to my learning to change a diaper. (I jumped in as a stepfather, later in the game.)
If you could join a TV show (present or past) and be a new character on that show, which one would you choose?
Mozart and the Jungle could use a third conductor. Maybe a sane counterpoint, mentor for Rudolfo? Or maybe just to send the older one back to Cuba?
What’s your ringtone?
Ringtone? Tracfones have them? Mine’s whatever I inherited back when.
Where were you born?
My newest novel, St. Helens in the Mix, turns the focus of my Northwest Passion series on Todd and Lucy. Once again, Jaya leaves a lasting influence, this time on her new neighbors in the Ozarks, especially once they rejoin her and her younger husband, Erik, in the orchard country of Washington state. The question is whether they can all hew to the lofty aspirations she projects without becoming too embroiled in the festering struggles of their daily lives. Living downwind from a volcano only adds to the tension.
It was great seeing them again. Jaya gave me a big hug, and I remembered why I’d looked up to her. She was older than Erik, who was my age. Older than Todd, too. And she’d lived in an ashram, where she’d learned a lot about yoga and people, too, before she moved off to the prairie where she’d met Erik.
We met them when they rented the other half of the duplex we had in the Ozarks, and here we were again, starting over.
Things with Erik were a little more complex. He and Todd got along OK, but they weren’t best friends. Todd was closer to Jaya — well, we all were. She was simply the magnet that drew us all together. Maybe it was just because she was a little older and had been to more places and had more experiences than the rest of us, but I’d say it was really because she simply had a commanding presence, even when she said nothing.
For a free copy of my newest novel, click here.
As I said at the time …
Came across a fascinating insight a while back, something that might continue our “bad boys/good girls” dialogue. The writer, a mother, was observing that even in second grade, teachers automatically divided the class into bad boys and, you guessed it, good girls. By extension, then, coming as this does around the time that most boys are undergoing their sexual and emotional separation and twisting away from Mother, a different path from the girls’ formation, the very model of boyhood becomes, by definition, to be bad! To be a “good boy” is in effect to be a sissy, a girl. To be bad is to push the limits, be independent, be a leader, take action, grow up fast.
Perhaps this is when the boy really needs the mentor figure Robert Bly envisions, to take the boy into wilderness beyond the camp. Maybe it was the same writer (newsroom means little time to read closely, and often not to make a printout either) who was warning that American society has a real time bomb in the making as boys are being subjected to some very confused expectations and accusations. To be virile is taken to translate as promiscuous; strong, as violent; and so on.
Incidentally, David Hernandez’s “Bruises” demonstrates one side of this boy/girl outlook marvelously: when you were a child, did girls ever compare their signs of toughness like this? (So who are the “bad girls”? Tomboys? Or loners at the edge, exploring their own imaginations? Diane Wakoski has pursued this as well as anyone I can think of, but the field still seems wide open!)
Oh, well, I can only open these issues in a poem; resolution comes somewhere else!
My collected poems are available in Blue Rock. The ebook’s free in the platform of your choice.