THE TOWER VIEW

A large Queen Anne-style house with a distinctive witch’s hat tower something like this is the headquarters for Cassia’s extended family in my new novel, What’s Left. If only this one were pink, like hers.

As I viewed photographs of the kind of Victorian house her family would gravitate toward, having a round tower at one corner seemed natural – especially one capped by a pointy roof commonly called a witch’s hat. The idea of living in a tall-ceilinged attic, with its air of private retreat, holds romantic appeal anyway, but having it open out into a circle room with views overlooking the street in both directions strikes me as a plus. How about you?

Read More »

Advertisements

BRACING FOR THE NEW YEAR

Much happened in my life in the past year that I haven’t mentioned in the blog. My attention was largely focused on the new novel, which underwent three major revisions, completely changing its focus from, first, what Cassia discovered about her hippie father to, second, what she discovered about her Greek-American family through his photos to, third, finally the way she emerged from the emotional loss and grew stronger and wiser as a consequence. Now that What’s Left (the third title, by the way) is finally released as an ebook (Cheers!), you can tell me if it was worth three years of angst, fasting, and flagellation on my part.

One personal accomplishment was my reading the Bible straight-through at the beginning of the year. I started with Everett Fox’s extraordinary translation of the Five Books of Moses and ended with David Bauscher’s translation of the New Testament from Aramaic, while covering most of what’s in-between in the New Jerusalem version. Wanted to hear it all afresh. My notes from the experience will probably fuel an upcoming series, likely at my As Light Is Sown blog.

Also on the religious front, I attended the entire Holy Week (what they regard as Passover) services in the Greek Orthodox tradition. Outwardly, it’s about as far as you can get from my quietist Quaker aesthetic, but again, it was a powerful way of hearing the story afresh. With the shortest service running about an hour-and-a-half and the longest well beyond that, the closest comparison I could come up with would be Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (nightly) or Wagner’s Ring Cycle, which runs shorter in time and isn’t repeated the next morning. It was a miracle the priest and psalmists had any voice left by Easter. And the final services border on chaotic, wax-dripping celebration. Well, that’s the short take. My one regret is that I’ll never again be able to experience this for the first time.

In late spring, I felt called to assist our neighboring Indonesian immigrant community as a number of Christian refugees face deportation to a land where they fear profound religious persecution. As many of us have found, accompanying them to monthly immigration appointments an hour from home has been a life-changing experience. The vigil outside the federal building has been the biggest ecumenical gathering in the state, with clergy and laity blending together. I’m getting teary simply typing this. A last-minute federal court stay has us hopeful, but nothing’s certain as we await the final rulings. I am so proud that my Quaker Meeting has stepped up to this challenge, supported by at least a dozen other congregations in our corner of the state. Whatever action we take, we cannot do alone, but we feel God’s Spirit leading.

At home, our garden flourished, especially with an unprecedented fall in which the first frost didn’t strike until November 8 — a full month later than normal. We still had our own tomatoes up to New Year’s Day.

Read More »

CLOCKING THE FORECAST

YES, EVERYBODY TALKS about the weather. I’m no exception, and I usually enjoy the exchange. But I also listen with a grain of salt. To take a longer view and talk about the seasons, however, is another matter – one heightened in recent years by concerns about climatic upheaval and global warming. Living as I have in various locales in a band across the northern half of the United States, I’ve come to appreciate a wide seasonal ebb and flow. Deep snowfall and subzero spells, crackling and booming thunderstorms, an extended spring – I’m not one for the monotonous sunshine of Florida or southern California. I want to be jolted and moved, with all the accompanying influence on my emotions and thinking. There are seasons for curling up late at night with a book; others for reading on the beach or under the trees. Times for shoveling snow or cross-country skiing; times for raking leaves and mulching. Each new place has meant adjusting my expectations and observing fine differences from what I had previously encountered. All this, before dealing directly with the variations from one year to another within a specific place.

Over the years, the repetition adds up to knowledge and expectation. As the winter solstice observations of Christmas and New Year’s, there’s anticipation before ordering garden seeds in January and bringing the grow lights up from the cellar so you may start the seedlings. Having the cross country boots and skis ready. Keeping an eye on the pussy willows, to collect their sprigs. Planting, harvesting, cooking, sharing, and preserving. There’s the anticipation of the sequence of flowers or garden produce, each to be savored in its moment. From asparagus, snow peas, and strawberries through to potatoes, garlic, and leaks. From snow lilies, forsythia, and crocus through to asters and Jerusalem artichokes. Ordering firewood early, so it will season properly. Calling the chimney sweep and annual furnace checkup. Making room in the compost bins for October leaves. Trimming the hedges. And that’s just from a homeowner’s and urban gardener’s perspective. Normally, I wouldn’t be writing in July – my attic workspace simply becomes too stuffy, but this year’s an exception. There are other fronts. We’ve brewed ales in late autumn and lagers in deep winter, to take advantage of the favored requirements of each yeast. There’s also the seasonal flow of paying taxes and insurance, registering the car, taking a vacation, enjoying holidays. We also see academic years, baseball and football seasons, opera and symphony seasons, television seasons. There are many more, of course, as you start looking.

The challenge comes in not falling behind, but to instead preparing for the next stage. Here come the tomatoes, here comes the sweet corn. Pace yourself for the playoffs. Budget accordingly.

Read More »

MAY WE GROW OLD GRACEFULLY

Just a taste of what’s popping up. In case you were looking for a prompt.

~*~

  1. Somehow as a Subway Hitchhiker (at least in my imagination and dreaming) I’ve settled in a small city in a cluster of small cities amid moose and deer and the occasional black bear. As well as the eagle, overhead. Here, with my city farm, as we garden.
  2. Always the Outsider – even when I’m the Leader.
  3. This slow process of learning to trust each other again.
  4. Yet some Wants are also Needs! (To be loved, accepted – even as a writer – even successful or victorious in some manner.)
  5. My Wall is an aspect of Control. (Even if it’s so classic it’s trite.)
  6. Sometimes it seems we don’t play. We don’t play enough.
  7. The pathway is not straight but strait. Not even like a tightrope. No wonder I’m so often off-kilter.
  8. In the beginning was the Plan and the Plan was (as I paraphrase the gospel of John). Yes, simply was. And all we have to do is step into it! As if it could really be that simple.
  9. This is hardly a Literary Life. How different my work would be had I led another existence. Something with more time for serious reading, teaching, refined social circles. Rather than laboring out in the field.
  10. So comforting, this thick terrycloth bathrobe that reaches to my ankles – not a given, at all, when you’re tall. Nice way to round out the year.

~*~

Set for winter. We burn about three cords of firewood to help heat the house each year.
Set for winter. We burn about three cords of firewood to help heat the house each year. As they used to say, “Half your hay by Groundhog Hog,” meaning the amount you’d need left to get through a full winter. It applied to firewood, too.

ANY NUMBER OF WAYS

he could die now flattened by wheels electrocuted, biting a live wire poisoned or simple disease or drown all the complications, amassed *   *   * somewhere, in the limbs what had riled him so early? Blue Jay squawking could be confused for squirrels (What was the opera, anyway? Certainly not Cinderella with her matching fur […]

FAMILY VALUES

Mrs. Richardson had been yelling at the kid the fifth-grade girl who came around to our door begging money to pay the babysitter Mrs. Richardson yelled at the grandchild for three days, and spanked her then they were crying, in different parts of the building all the while, their phonograph repeated “the angels sing, glory […]