Steeple repair

Scaffolding surrounds the St. John tower on Chapel Street. This view is from the other side of the Cocheco River.

When St. John Methodist moved from its home a block from the Upper Square in downtown Dover, the city acquired the landmark and converted it to low-cost housing. Today the spire is undergoing repair. A few years ago, the steeple on First Parish required similar maintenance.

The long yellow building at the top of the hill and the gray one to its right are new additions to the skyline.

 

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Got bees

Blame my elder stepdaughter. Or give her all the credit. She took up the cause last year by setting up two beehives at her house. Her mother and I then witnessed much of the excitement and drama that followed. It was contagious.

Jump ahead to this spring. We were encouraged to get our own hive, starting with the boxes and frames from another couple at Quaker Meeting, and then, drawing on said daughter’s expertise and guidance, we launched into our own “greening” venture. I painted the brooder- and honey- “deeps” or “supers” and the landing board all a light green, and set up a concrete-block base to discourage dampness, ants, mice, and our local skunks from invading. Positioned the entry to catch the morning sun, per said daughter’s instructions. And then she taught us how to attach sheets of what are called foundations to each of the frames that go inside the boxes for the bees to build their honeycombs on. Oh, there is definitely a whole new vocabulary for us to ingest.

The buzz really kicked in when our colony and queen arrived from Georgia earlier this month. We gingerly poured them into the hive, like a big glop, and they do seem to be settling in perfectly. Watching the details is fascinating, from their purging of the drones shortly after the big move and then moving on to the guard bees who expel “robber” bees trying to invade from other colonies while the workers get their bearings, explore, and arrive home with their legs brightly loaded with pollen. Who would have thought there would be so much personality in an apiary? We haven’t even gotten to the queen bee yet,deep within the hive – we hope.

We’re not expecting to collect any honey this year – we’d rather have the hive be well supplied for its first winter – but the benefits to our garden and the surrounding environment give us justification enough.

Yes, we got bees – honeybees!

Once the colony’s fully settled in, we’ll add another “brooder deep” to the beehive stack sitting at the edge of our raspberries. The structure off to the right is our compost bin.

Ten ways this ‘Subway’ is new and improved

My new novel Subway Visions comes a long way from its earlier incarnation as Subway Hitchhikers.

Here are ten ways it’s new and improved.

  1. The novel no longer serves as an introduction to three other volumes but stands fully on its own in a more timeless Gotham.
  2. The central character is now identified as Kenzie, in line with the other novels in my Freakin’ Free Spirits cycle. Gone are the Duma Luma and later D.L. monikers. He’s more grounded than they were.
  3. The action is now built on a clear chronology that runs parallel to his ongoing life to the north. For that, you can read Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.
  4. He now has monthly opportunities to visit the Big Apple and ride its rails, thanks to a floating three-day weekend off from his job. This gives more plausibility to his familiarity with the city while living hours to the north. He is young and ready for adventure, after all.
  5. With his Tibetan guru living in Manhattan’s SoHo district, Kenzie’s Buddhist studies now run through much of the story. His sessions there become his principal motivation for the monthly visits.
  6. The story is now anchored by a set of regular characters, beginning with his guru and Buddha buddies like Holly and Wilson before expanding in the second half with the wild tagger T-Rex.
  7. As one reader said of the earlier version, “I really dig that chick Holly.” Now there’s a lot more of her. (And Wilson and T-Rex are altogether new.)
  8. The language is tighter; the sentences, more staccato, befitting the grimy trains and their stations.
  9. The funky sweet surrealism of the original tale now floats over the substance of an inescapably malodorous substratum. There’s nothing bland and disinfected in this gritty demimonde of endless night where Kenzie encounters the most remarkable souls and visions.
  10. These events are now seen in a historical perspective, thanks to the unseen presence of Kenzie’s daughter Cassia while I was revising the tale. Credit her for the snippier tone, too.

Be among the first to read my newest novel.

About that floating three-day weekend

In giving Kenzie that three-day weekend once every four weeks in the new novel Pit-a-Pat High Jinks, I was leaning on a work schedule I had on a newspaper out in Ohio. I sure wish I had it when I was living Upstate New York and assigned to a typical split week like his in the story. It was brutal.

Of course, in this round of revision, I was looking ahead to his experiences in my new Subway Visions. He would now have a chunk of time to head off to the Big Apple and return home.

As I reflect on my own forays into the city and its mass-transit tunnels, I think I made as many trips during my time in Ohio as I had in a similar period when I was living only four or five hours away from the metropolis. In other words, Kenzie gets in a lot more time on the underground tracks than I ever had.

Living an hour north of Boston, as I do now, I can admit to spending far more time on its subway system that I had in New York’s. And I’ve also relied on the systems of Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington in the years since I drafted the original Subway Hitchhikers.

Have you ever had a special twist in a work schedule that had an impact like this?   

Starting with death

My new novel, What’s Left, opens with her being taken out of her classroom and being told of the death of her father. Well, there’s still a thread of hope, since his body had not been recovered from the avalanche. But the finality weighs in.

What’s an 11-year-old to make of this? She’s been raised in two traditions, each one differing from the mainstream around her.

It’s not the only death in the novel. There’s the tragic collision that kills her grandparents and creates the opening for her father to marry into the family – they no doubt would have thwarted that development. And there are the other ancestors gone by the time Cassia appears on the scene, as well as two uncles who die when she’s too young to understand. But the questions remain.

Some of my favorite answers arise in the 14th chapter. But please remember: no fair peeking ahead.

~*~

The subject of death is difficult enough for adults. For children it’s all the more baffling, once they push past the notion of sleeping but not waking.

What’s the earliest funeral you remember? What were you told? What would you say to others?

~*~

The Athens restaurant in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire, is a longstanding tradition. Cassia’s family could have followed in its footsteps but chose a different route.