Packing it in to move on

We were reluctant to start packing up our final goods from the house until the new couple passed through their final checkpoint in the home-purchase process. You know, just in case we had to show the place again to a fresh round of bidders.

What it’s meant was less than a week to box or wrap all that remains and haul it off somewhere.

We had already done a ton of packing and purging to make the rooms look presentable, but we wanted to leave enough to make it look cozy and livable. So that part’s done.

I’m a big believer in having uniformly sized boxes in a big move. They stack much more easily, for one thing.

Seeing those shelves empty of books does look strange. I’d forgotten how heavy they are in a box, too.

There’s no way it will all fit in our new Downeast address, especially before our anticipated renovations are completed, so we’re putting some in two storage units, in effect buying some time for some serious culling. More is going off to our daughter’s already stuffed barn in York, to come up later.

It gets emotional, of course. I’m surprised how much responsibility I feel toward the books I’ve read, and their authors. And then there’s my vinyl collection.

Of course, that’s only my tip of the proverbial iceberg. Take the kitchen and garden goods, especially.

Sometimes I used to joke that I couldn’t understand how people lived without a barn to hold all the overflow. Only now it’s not the least bit funny. Seriously, folks.

What I like about gardening

Candidly, I’m not the gardener in our household, but I still have to pitch in with the work. Let me look on the bright side. Plus, when it comes to dining, I definitely enjoy the benefits.

  1. There’s less grass to mow, thanks to the beds that take up at least half of what would have otherwise been lawn.
  2. The sequence of blossoms and produce give me a heightened seasonal awareness. Every week is different, from mid-March as far as mid-November, in the progression of blossoms .
  3. The selections and placement of plants reveals my wife’s mind with its shifting palate of color. She designs English-style clumps, unlike my straight rows. Yes, it really can be a feast for the eyes, even as we look out from our windows.
  4. Asparagus, in a permanent bed, is a delight to cut and eat almost immediately each day through the month of May. It’s the first of our you-can’t-buy-it-this-fresh revelations and reminds me of my years of living in the Yakima Valley of Washington state, where it sprouted like a weed. There, our goal was to sate our taste buds for the coming year. Besides, the delicate ferns are stunning foliage all summer.
  5. Fresh greens. Salads, especially.
  6. Berries, starting with strawberries and extending into blueberries and raspberries. We also have a bank of currants.
  7. Real tomatoes, not the poor substitute you find at the supermarket. We always raise a variety of sizes and shapes, and you’d be surprised how much their flavor varies. One year, I think we had 14 different kinds. Nothing surpasses a tomato and mayo sandwich every day through August and much of September. The king of France should have been envious. You can forget the bacon or even lettuce, as far as I’m concerned, they detract from the star attraction. Again, it’s enjoy it while it’s so gloriously available. (We also freeze a lot for deep winter – the soup, especially, can be heavenly while you watch the snow fall.)
  8. Weeding, which I’d normally avoid, has become a quick means to collect food for the rabbits, which they so greedily and efficiently compost.
  9. Which brings up composting, a lesson in patience and the importance of worms, as I feel virtuous in turning what would have otherwise gone to the landfill into a miracle mixture that’s revived much of our property from what my wife termed “dead dirt” into something soft, pliant, and fertile.
  10. Hummingbirds. They make their rounds through everything flowering, but you have to be alert to see them. Sometimes they’re even right behind your back.

~*~

Well, gardening does also serve as an item of conversation.

What would you add?

Room to welcome everyone

They definitely weren’t suburban. A big pink Victorian house suits Cassia’s colorful extended family in my novel What’s Left. And guests, even guests of guests, are typically welcome.

Have you ever been welcomed in a home like Cassia’s? How does it differ from yours?

~*~

Theirs also had a witch hat, something like the one here.

Howdy, Hank

exactly what comes next? maybe it’s Chicago within multiple trajectories of impatience and boredom before connecting and charging ahead roughshod you take a swing, fan, and fan again in this curriculum of revelations from Old Friends everywhere standing on some pebble-strewn base of a mountain, watching a squall line of religious tracts form in oppressive humidity how am I to know this will play Boston, this season or next? maybe I’ll score, ah, yes, and speaking of Hope, give her my greetings the big picture emerges one pitch at a time, here come the Sox . whoops

 

Old soldiers never die, as we used to sing

My novel What’s Left began percolating as I considered the dimensions of the hippie movement and realized it had never really died but continued disguised in many streams of action. Yes, I’d published my Hippie Trails series but so much still felt unfinished.

And, as a consequence of Cassia in the new novel, I went back and transformed the others into Freakin’ Free Spirits.

Looking at the world today, what pressing issues do you consider unfinished?

~*~

My novel is available at the Apple Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Scribd, Smashwords, Sony’s Kobo, and other fine ebook distributors and at Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.

Within a daughter’s own living Greek drama

Why I love tracking the hip groove of the underground

The paperback cover …

My subways novel started out to be my big hippie tome, building on a metaphor of hitchhiking, which was ubiquitous for us, but the extended concept ultimately got to be too unwieldy for one book. The supportive details were stripped away for what’s become Daffodil Uprising and Pit-a-Pat High Jinks, leaving the metropolis altogether.

Spurred on by Richard Brautigan’s “Trout Fishing in America” with a dash of William Burroughs, the initial drafts played surrealistically in a tension between the wide-open roads of the countryside and the underground realms of the biggest cities.

Then, four or five years after taking up the project, I was pawing through a used books bin in the desert of Washington state and came across a 1915 engineering volume, “Building Subways in New York,” which included “Elevated Railway Steelworks.” I still have it. How on earth had it ever landed out there amid the sagebrush?

I had already lived in Upstate New York four hours from Manhattan, and nearly all of my friends, housemates, and lovers were from The City. That was followed by my residency in a yoga ashram two hours away in the Poconos, so yes, I had learned to ride the trains. (Nowadays, it’s mostly Boston’s a little over an hour south of me.)

… and the back cover.

The original “Subway Hitchhikers” had a structure that ran like trains passing in opposite directions, which readers could find confusing rather than energizing. It also had a lacy air that reminded me of Robert Rauschenberg’s pop art “combines.” Gone, too, in the revisions is the protagonist’s hippie handle, substituting a more conventional nickname that better links this story to the others.

In the revised version, Subway Visions, there’s more focus on characters, plus new sections on Kenzie’s encounters of Tibetan Buddhism in a tenement near Greenwich Village as well as a graffiti artist known as T-Rex.

What’s evolved has a much straighter narrative and more arresting development, now linked to Kenzie’s ongoing life in the hills to the north. And elements of fantasy and heightened playfulness now augment the earlier surrealism.

I suspect I still have some classic coin tokens in my possession, somewhere.

Just what’s drawn us to Sunrise County?

Naturally, there have been moments when we find ourselves second-guessing our decision to relocate to a remote fishing village at the other end of Maine. Technically, it’s a city, reflecting its peak as the sardine-packing capital of the world, though today’s year-’round population is a mere 1,300 – about the same as the enrollment in my high school minus the 700 freshmen.

I could easily do a Tendrils on what the place doesn’t have – a Laundromat, Chinese or Mexican restaurant, even a pizza takeout, for starters. It’s in an economically challenged region, to put it politely, and the county has a population of only 32,000 stretched across an area about 2½ times the size of Long Island, New York. That comes to about 10 residents per square mile. What, three households? Around half of the townships have no residents at all or at least not enough to incorporate – they have to rely on the state for local governance.

The closest city of any size and resources is St. John, New Brunswick, population 68,000, an hour and three-quarters drive mostly east – once the U.S.-Canada border reopens.

Next, and more likely, is Bangor, 33,000 population, a two-hour-plus drive to the west. (Practically speaking, it’s also the nearest Toyota dealer, when we need serious work on the Prius, the closest medical specialists, the closest U.S. airport providing commercial service or even an Interstate highway.) Portland, seemingly cosmopolitan, takes four hours – with Boston an additional two or so beyond that. (More in the tourist season, when traffic backs up forever at the turnpike toll plazas.)

Are we crazy?

Yes, I’d have to say.

We’re also enchanted.

Crucially, Eastport – on the Bold Coast in what’s aptly dubbed Sunrise County – does have an active arts community, making me think of the TV series “Northern Exposure” and its quirky characters.

And there’s all that North Atlantic water and maritime activity. What makes an ocean so mesmerizing, anyway? The appeal goes far beyond romance for those who rely on moody appearances. This new realm is also deadly and terrifying and constantly changing, unlike anything I knew growing up in landlocked Ohio, for sure. Not even the then far-off Lake Erie.

Somehow, Eastport quickly revives my memories of Port Townsend on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, back in the late ’70s. At the time, it was an eclectic blend of working-class, outdoors types, and marginal artists, many somehow connected to the Fort Worden state park for the arts. Its proximity to booming Seattle, a mere 2½ to 3½-hour trip, plus any down time waiting for ferry connections, does put it in a cosmopolitan orb, unlike Eastport’s seven- to nine-hour drive or bus ride from the Hub of the Universe, Boston.

When I lived in Washington state, I harbored dreams of moving from our home in the desert orchards east of the Cascades Range and resettling somewhere like Port Townsend, perhaps even up in the Alaska Panhandle or on coastal British Columbia. That was crushed after the eruption of Mount Saint-Helens and career upheavals that had me reeling back to the Midwest and then Baltimore and finally New Hampshire. I really missed opportunities to spend time in the wilderness during much of that. Even small pockets of forest could be rarities.

Eastport, though, has rekindled that awareness. It’s not just the deer all over town or the eagles or the seal and then whale I saw from the lantern room of a lighthouse across the channel. There’s also the First People’s presence, which was a part of my Northwest experience. Did I mention you have to drive through the Passamaquoddy reservation to get to town?

In ways, I’m sensing the move promises me a chance to get down to some serious unfinished business. Me, with my certificate in urban studies, my yoga training, time among Plain Quakers and the more liberal end of Mennonites, my labors as a poet and novelist, and all those years in the newsroom.

We’ll see.

People of today I admire

OK, I’m counting couples as one here. And I’m excluding some nominees I celebrated earlier in the year in my ten fine couples list. Here goes:

  1. The Obamas, of course.
  2. And my wife and daughters and the two guys they bring into my life. Natchurally. Think of this as a team.
  3. Noah Merrill, the ever patient and faithful field secretary of New England Yearly Meeting of Friends.
  4. Brown Letham, energetic painter and activist and father of one very fine author.
  5. Jim and Eden Grace, holy peaceniks on a global scale.
  6. Timothy and Nijmeh Curren, Orthodox priest and presbvtera.
  7. George and Althea Coussoule, welcoming stalwarts of Dover’s Greek community.
  8. Sherry Wood. See my dedication in Hometown News.
  9. Jay O’Hara, free-Gospel minister and Quaker activist.
  10. Gary Snyder, American poet and Zen Buddhist.

~*~

So what if this adds up to more than ten individuals in all?

Who’s high on your own list?

Also on the plate

Why does the restaurant business sustain so many immigrant families? Just look at all our ethnic options in dining today, even in small cities. Not just Greek-American, like the one in my novel What’s Left.

What’s your favorite food stop? Is it run by a single family? Does it have an ethnic identity?

~*~

Look at all these Greek specialties!