WE AGE ALONG THE WAY

Being mindful of what’s right in front of us can always be a challenge. Here are 10 new items from my end.

~*~

  1. One definition of high summer for me: going to the beach for a swim at low tide and then stopping at the commercial fish distributor on the way home to pick out three lobsters followed by a stop at a farm a bit down the road for a dozen ears of corn picked just that morning. We’re soon feasting in the Smoking Garden, no problem making a mess. You know, the one-pot cooking thing for starters.
  2. Someone’s cell phone goes off during worship, insisting “Please say a command.” On the page of the open Bible next to me is an answer, “That your joy be complete” (Jesus, in the gospel of John). Who’s to argue? Not a bad command, is it?
  3. Falling walnuts hit the roof of our kitchen and sound like falling limbs or falling wooden boxes. Just where are our squirrels?
  4. The joys of a sharp black fountain pen, excising a draft to lace.
  5. There’s a restless in the core of our Seed. Usually, we try running from it. In silent worship, we stop to face it.
  6. As a writer, I’m an orphan. And yes, so is the Lone Ranger, once unmasked at the mirror.
  7. How deeply productivity is built into my psyche!
  8. Inspired by Richard Brown Lethem’s painting “Wink/Blue Table,” I like the idea of a poem or story being its own table rather than representing something else. Even as its own Table of Contents. (Where he’s a monkey, I’m a squirrel – rather than the hawk I’d envisioned.)
  9. “Closure victimizes thought” – Donald Revell on John Ashbery.
  10. Step on a nail in the garden. What a sore sole the next day! In contrast to sore soul.

~*~

They're everywhere.
They’re everywhere.

 

 

THE PERILS OF GETTING TRAPPED IN SUCCESS

Ever wonder where your life would have headed if you’d had the big breakthrough back then? Landed the job at the top? Been accepted at that Ivy League college or tony prep school? Married the seemingly perfectly glamorous spouse? (The one who got away, of course – or the one you only gaped at across the classroom with never more than a sentence at a time ever being exchanged?) Started your own business and thrived? Had the weed-free garden or the problem-free children?

I can look back on a life with a lot of near misses that way, or so I’d hope, but the reality is that is one advance that way would have precluded many, many down-to-earth life lessons.

Once past the early dreams of literary success, I’ve wondered what would have happened had one work or another taken off as a bestseller. More along that vein would have been expected, even demanded. And then? Where would the growth have occurred?

In my experience, the practice has been to keep exploring. Often it felt like looking for a crack in the wall, whatever the resistance was, but I kept probing.

Instead of continuing along that opening, had it happened, I’ve kept investigating a wider range and recording that. I could say it’s been exhausting as well as prolific.

Revisiting the notes and drafts and thoughts that underpin my newest release, Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang, resurrects so much of that turmoil and openness.

For me, this volume is a celebration of the creative process, more than any “finished” product.

It’s an honest acknowledgement of so much that got away or might have been. Wish you’d had a chance to meet me back then.

~*~

For these stories and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

CELEBRATING ‘HIGH SUMMER’

I’ve long been fond of collage as an art form. These Tendrils continue the stream.

~*~

  1. Tomatoes are in! Real tomatoes! Nothing like the ones in the supermarket all year, no way! Julienne is our workhorse variety, small but firm and reliable from the beginning to the end of the season. We dry and freeze many of them to use well through winter. Even while raising a dozen or more varieties, we find New England’s susceptibility to blight has erased most of our favorite big heritage varieties from our rounds. Hurrah, though, for some of the hybrids. For the big juicy reds we’re relying on Bobcat, Brandywine, and Cherokee Purple. Any other suggestions?
  2. “High summer” is what I celebrate once the oppressive heat and humidity of July break, rather than bemoan the few weeks remaining. …
  3. How tasty/zesty the wild blueberries on Mount Major!
  4. Dog Days, indeed. Swimming at what I call Fort Lobster. The water, choppy with a rip. A short swim can be exhausting. I can see how panic would set in. Meanwhile, she sleeps on the warm pebbles of this beach. Back home, we grill steak and corn on the cob.
  5. I really do have to learn to play bocce. Or bocci, as I usually see it spelled around here.
  6. At yearly meeting and other big Quaker gatherings where we rent a college campus for a week, we use golf carts to ferry folks from dorms to dining hall to the auditorium or classrooms. Has me thinking of amusement parks with their kiddie-car courses. Especially the faces of the volunteer drivers reliving a highlight of their childhoods.
  7. Still, I wonder about those who publish a short story and are then approached by an agent. Especially considering how difficult short-story collections prove in the marketplace. Short fiction, remember, is a whole different beast than a novel.
  8. Wandering through galleries of maritime paintings, she became fascinated by the way waves are depicted. Turns out to be a good way to traverse the collection.
  9. Before her, I had no real conception of house repairs! All these things that need to be done! Is it really endless?
  10. One-pot meals can be classic. To wit: I boil a pot of water, add corn on the cob. Remove the corn, replace it with lobster in the same (now seasoned) boiling water. Serve with butter and lemon and beverage of choice. All yummy!

~*~

Wild yarrow betwen staghorn sumac.
Wild tansy between staghorn sumac. Here I’d thought it was yarrow.

RUNNING FOR OFFICE OR FOR DINNER

Two early novels that were left unfinished are now resurrected and joined in this fertile volume. One, a venture into “political science fiction,” seems prescient in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential campaign. The other, in a mystery genre, enters its own time warp with an invitation to dine out.

Take a trip Along the Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang.

~*~

For these stories and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

She asks, “What do you want?” (Apart from the obvious?)

For this household to be harmonious, I reply.

It’s a good place to start, she agrees.

Safety, for one child. And gratitude – including the things that haven’t happened.

Health – and the right companion – for the other.

Healing, happiness, and meaningful employment, for yet another.

And contentment, for the mother-in-law.

A good garden, too.

As for me? Where do I even begin? Really begin?

IN THE RECIPE FOR A MYSTERY NOVEL

Does a mystery novel have to revolve around a detective? Even a charming amateur? Or can it focus instead on the leading suspect?

In proposing a book with the working title, Dinner to Die For, I envisioned an anonymous restaurant critic who works for an independent television station. How to handle the visuals for each review would have posed an interesting challenge, something quite unlike the so-called Phantom Gourmet who has since become a popular staple on a New England cable news channel. He’s widely recognized on the street, for one thing.

Well, the novel never moved forward. This project was predicated on two collaborators, who eventually declined, however discretely.

Still, enough remained to slip into my newest book, Along the Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang.

As a further twist, my biggest novel on the way is also about food and restaurants. This time, from the inside. And I promise, it won’t be a mystery.

~*~

Parallel Tracks
Parallel Tracks

For these stories and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

ALL OVER AGAIN. OUT OF NOWHERE

Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.

~*~

  1. A bit of gardening before Meeting for Worship. A round of picking raspberries, peas, string beans. Blueberries and currants are next to ripen.
  2. One foot in the present, the other in the past. Not just a pattern for dreams. It’s intrinsic to the process of writing. Add to that smells, sounds, touch, taste.
  3. I love the concept of the Commonplace Book – a kind of scrapbook of observations of a personal journey. It’s related to the tradition I discovered in whaling ship logs.
  4. The logbooks, by the way, had a specific form, which by 1840 came in printed versions with columns H, W, K – hour, wind, knots – plus course and comments like “lost sight of land” or notations of birds seen. Across the bottom of each page are other notes, such as latitude and longitude or the distance traveled in a day, where I saw up to 140 miles recorded. Turns out the entries also helped determine or justify extra rations for the crew and so on, depending on the conditions. Wonder how that format would work as a personal journal.
  5. What do we make of rounds of thunderstorms, interrupted by bursts of sunlight, knowing more weeds and garden slugs are on the way?
  6. The Portsmouth Greek Festival differs from ours in Dover. Their event has two food lines, rather than one, and an outdoor tent for dancing. It all takes place behind the church, rather than miles away. I’m surprised how little interaction there is between the two Orthodox congregations.
  7. Been meditating for 66 years now, one way or another upholding the spiritual discipline. More than half of that time has been as a member of Dover Friends, worshiping in our 1768 Quaker meetinghouse. Some of the members have been there the whole time with me. (How could that be? Already!)
  8. I’m not a big fan of comparative religion, looking for commonalities and similarities. I’m more interested in vital differences and nuance. How far this is from what I’d envisioned, back when I was largely agnostic.
  9. In a very fragile condition, a snake having just shed its skin.
  10. What was the biggest mistake in my life? (Or in yours?)

~*~

Doesn't everyone have a stone wall for the pots?
Doesn’t everyone have a stone wall for the pots?