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Monday, August 22, 2016

Airmail



At 22, I left America and traveled  eastern Australia with my younger sister. One of our older sisters  married an Australian and still lives near Melbourne—we used her home as a jumping off point.  On one of our sojourns, the two of us ended up in Tasmania, off the coast of OZ.  There, we journeyed from town to town via the only public transportation, one passenger van that circled the small island territory daily. Climbing off at some point, we realized we’d passed noontime on Saturday when businesses closed.  It was a long weekend, banks wouldn’t reopen until Tuesday and ATM’s were only  for big cities back then.  We had enough cash to pay for a youth hostel at $3.00 each per night, but then we were broke, which meant no food until Tuesday. 


Slightly panicked, we debated what to do as we walked through the tiny town of St. Mary’s. Unbeknownst to us, one of our fellow van passengers, an elderly English gentleman traveling Australia, overhead our conversation.  Catching up to us, he insisted he’d be delighted to serve as a gallant knight (his words, not mine) to two troubled urchins in need, and offered us $20.00. Through misguided pride, we demurred and he  moved on, but once he left, real fear set in, so a few minutes later and in spite of our abject mortification, we tracked him down and with downcast eyes, mumbled that we guessed we’d take the money after all.   

For the rest of the weekend, we slept well enough, and with the help of his money, ate one good meal,  then subsisted on Ramen noodles and apples “liberated” from a tree in a local orchard.  Tuesday, after visiting a bank, we bought a card and wrote a thank you note. Enclosing a $20 bill we mailed it back to our benefactor who had provided us with a return address in England.  A few weeks later, we arrived back home in the the US, to find a letter on tissue-thin paper from our savior awaiting us.  This long lead up is actually about his letter, which I discovered while looking through photos the other night.  

I hope you'll take the time to read it, and imagine a the charm of this man, late seventies, maybe early eighties, stooped and balding, wearing  a tweed jacket as he trekked the breath of Australia as a kind of last hurrah.  Imagine him home again, perched in front of a typewriter composing a witty, heartfelt letter to two young women he would never see again, and understand how the story of his kindness, and his whimsical words, have become a part of my family folklore.  






I wrote back to him, but never received a response.  He seemed so very old, I thought perhaps he’d passed away soon after his trip, though I’ll never know.  Re-reading his letter after all these years, I hope, somewhere in Worthing, West Sussex, England, descendants of a man named Daniel Pinner remember their father, grandfather, uncle, brother as a dear, and his memory provokes warmth tinged with wistfulness, just as it does me.

Monday, August 8, 2016

One Word Photo Caption

What does this photo mean to you? Choose one word. I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

IWSG August 2016--First Writing



It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read more posts, click here.

Today’s question: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now, collecting dust or has it been published.

As a fourteen-year-old, I visited Cape Cod on a May weekend with two of my best friends, twin sisters whose family had a summer house near the water. Back then, I lived in a landlocked town, and being near the coast was a novelty for me.  One evening, we took a walk down to the beach to watch as the flaming sun dropped into the sea.  Low tide had rolled the water back, ginger mud flats wore dollops of seaweed, and barefoot, we crossed washboard sand festooned with broken-shell jewelry.  Awed by the beauty amid all that orange reflection, the need to record the experience swelled inside me.  As soon as we returned to the house, I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote a descriptive paragraph, desperate to portray the scene--the seagulls calling overhead, the damp hot air, the nose-wrinkling smell of low tide.

The next week, puffed up and filled with expectation, I gave the piece to a friend, one of the editors of our junior high school  magazine, thinking it was good enough to be published in the year-end issue.  She returned it to me a few weeks later speckled with comments from her peer reviewers. The first remark went something like, “You know I hate this kind of stuff. I don’t know why I'm even reading it.”  Someone else said, “Nice sentiment, but awkward phrasing. Pass.”  The third reviewer didn't bother to comment, but penciled in a numerical score--I believe it was two point five out of five.  Needless to say, that little bit of descriptive brilliance never made it to print. I packed away the disappointment and the piece, but never the swelling in my heart that drove me to pick up the pen.

A few weeks ago, I had an email exchange with one of those twin sisters, a friend I’ve known longer than anyone other than family.  She asked how my writing was going, and then reminded me of that weekend so long ago on the Cape.  “I was so jealous of you, how you could just sit down and write.”  I didn’t know, back then, that other people can't or don't care to perhaps, act on their feelings in the same manner that drives me.  I just knew that day on the beach, I'd witnessed true beauty and it called on me capture its essence.  Or, attempt to, anyway.

I've had lots of pieces published since then, but it took me a long time to get there, years in which I yearned to "become" a writer but afraid to label myself as one, and this IWSG question has led me to understand something.  It's likely this compelling need to chronicle what touches me defines many writers. Who knew?  It was never necessary for me to "become" a writer.  Since that dark-ages day on Cape Cod when I was a teen, I’ve been one.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Place Holder


I set the tripod up looking out the family room window and waited.  I just love these little fellas.  See you on Wednesday for IWSG.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Blogger Guilt?



Is Blogger guilt the same as Catholic guilt?  My post last week was a cheat.  Call it a lifeline perhaps, but the blog hop that appeared like an angel and supplied me with word-fodder when I had nothing to write, got me off the hook.  This week, though, I won’t allow myself the luxury.  It’s time to come up with a real post, even though it feels like I’m still out there treading water, at a loss for words when the lifeguards have all gone home.  So, you’re going to get what you always get with this happens, a word dump. Brain, to fingers, to post. 

As I write, we’re cruising towards our end of July heat wave, but after two visits down to South Carolina since March, I’ll tell you this.  Up here, we don’t know heat. We just don’t.  As a result, I’ve been snickering to myself at work when I hear people moaning about the humidity.  To be clear, it is not unusual around here for people not to own air conditioners, and without one when the thermometer tops ninety and the humidity soars, it really is hot.  That said, the reason so many of us don’t go to the expense, or bother of installing air conditioners is because the heat just doesn’t last.  By August, the nights will already get cooler. Add to that a sea breeze that helps to mitigate high temps, and like us, you too, might own one air-conditioning window unit that some years never makes it up from the basement.  As this moment, ours is still down there.

Ugh.  Weather?  Is this all I can come up with?  Come on fingers, you can do better than that...

Hmmm.  Ummm…

Things I am grateful for:

A visit from one of my oldest friends this weekend along with her husband.  

When I wake up to a clear sky and a weekend stretching ahead of us, well, trust me, I know how lucky we are. The ocean we love is near and we appreciate it even more when we get to share it. Fate was especially good for this visit, as we took our guests sailing and the wind blue steady and strong.  Later, we swam off the harbor sandbar, and the normally frigid water was bearable.  We ate dinner outside and the mosquitos allowed to us finish before chasing us inside—and Sunday morning, when we headed out early to drink coffee and eat bagels on the beach, the still water blended with the horizon as if an artist smudged the line with a charcoal pencil. The stone lighthouse on the horizon faded in and out amid a distant haze, while behind us, a morning beach yoga class quietly struck their poses.  Having company allows us to see our hometown through our visitors’ eyes, making it a holiday for us, too.

And last but not least, I received an email from my favorite blueberry patch this week, announcing the berries are ripe.  

That means in the next day or so, I’ll pull on socks with my sneakers and head to the farm where I’ll sling the rope tied to a plastic bucket around my neck, and pick with two hands. I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this tradition for each of the seven summers I’ve been blogging.  Being out in the fields with the birds and the cicadas and the tickle of tall grass around my legs always inspires me.  Making blueberry crisp with fresh picked fruit does too.  Stay tuned.  Could be my topic for next week…

Saturday, July 9, 2016

This is Me, A-Z



I haven't done a blog hop in a while.  I had fun with this one. This hop is on until July 13.   To join in, or get to know others, click here:

This is me, from A to Z

A: Age
Really, I have to tell you?  Well, I started this blog when I was 50.  You do the math.

B: Biggest fear
Something will happen to my husband or daughter

C: Current time
10:15 am

D: Drink you last had
Coffee

E: Every day starts with
“Can’t I just stay in bed a little longer?”

F: Favorite Song

Too, too many.  But here is the haunting, ethereal one I come back to whenever asked this question:

G: Ghosts, are they real?
I rather hope so.

H: Hometown
On the south shore of Massachusetts, where I've been for the last 24 years.  Before that, a town a bit west of Boston.

I: In love with
Life and my dear, dear husband.

J: Jealous of?
Hmmm.  Try not to be.  Really.

K: Killed someone?
In my second novel, I killed of the MC’s father…and cried for about an hour.  Haven’t done it since.

L: Last time you cried?
I’m pretty sure I cried watching a video someone put on FB, but since I do that regularly, I can’t remember which one.

M: Middle name?
Elizabeth, which I now use as my first name.  Believe it or not, my real first name is Mary.

N: Number of siblings?
5

O: One wish?
To get my act in gear, finish my current manuscript and finally publish a novel.

P: Person you last called?
My daughter

Q: Question you're always asked?
I moved to my husband's home town and he is one of eight siblings.  If it is not, "Are you related to...?"   then it's ...Which one are you married to?"

R: Reason to smile?
My husband, my daughter, my garden, when my articles are in print, when someone says something nice about my writing, better yet, when someone acknowledges me as a writer…

S: Sounds that annoy you?
We are on a jet path to the airport.  When the wind comes from the northwest, we hear every circling plane, and they fly low.

T: Time you woke up?
5:20 am.

U: Underwear color?
Black

V: Vacation destination?
Just returned from Charleston, SC, which has been on my bucket list for years.  I haven’t replaced it yet.

W: Worst habit?
Reading when I should be doing everything else.

X: X-Rays you've had?
Besides the airport and dentist?  I have them pretty regularly to check on what (fingers crossed) remains a benign medical condition.

Y: Your favorite food?
To many to mention, but here are a few: bread pudding, corn and clam chowder, roast leg of lamb, a fresh tomato off the vine…preferable with fresh basil and mozzarella.  Shrimp or clam linguini.  Bolognese.  Roasted potatoes.  Blueberry pie.  Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate brownie, or New York Super Fudge Chunk…really.  If it’s not liver and it’s prepared well, then it’s my favorite. 

Z: Zodiac sign
Cancer.  Yep. Got a birthday coming up!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Who? Me? IWSG July



It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader, please visit his co-hosts this month: Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, Madeline Mora-Summonte, LK Hill, Rachna Chhrabia, and JA Scott.

This month we have a theme question: What is the best thing anyone has said about your writing?

I write freelance for a publishing company that produces various local lifestyle magazines.  They gave me a start about six years ago, offering me the opportunity to write about food-related subjects in free blog posts for one of their online publications.  Once I proved myself, they began giving me feature articles in their magazines, and often, my picture appears on the contributors’ page.  Honestly, people who read my blog probably know more about the articles I write than the people in my day-to- day life. I mean, if people ask, I tell them what I’ve written lately, but they don't ask much, and I don’t run around announcing every piece. It is enough for me that the editors pass my name along to each other and every couple of months or so, I receive an email asking me to write a feature story.  The topics are fun, and they pay. I get a lot of enjoyment out of the whole business.

So, last week, my husband and I stopped at the library together. While we don’t know the names of the librarians, they're familiar faces, and as I checked out my books one of the them said to me, “You're the writer, right?”

Eyes widening, I nodded.  “I am.”

She gave me a big grin.  “I carry a subscription to South Shore Living, and I always look forward to seeing your articles.” She said.  “And I read The Globe.  I saw your recent story there too!”

Walking out of the library, honestly, I giggled.  “Did you hear that?” I asked my husband.

“I did,” he said.  “Look at you. You have a fan.”

Then, this past Friday, something added to the fun.  My husband and I went out for an early supper at a modest waterfront restaurant we get to occasionally.  After we finished, I waited on the sidewalk outside while he visited the facilities.  Even though I'd just seen it, I perused the menu stapled on a glass covered bulletin board before beginning to read a wooden-framed notice beneath it.  It was a review, it started off witty, and I gathered myself ready for a fun read.  One paragraph into it, the thing started to sound...familiar?  I checked the byline and started laughing.  Five years later, I'm kind of tickled with myself.  The thing was good and yep, I wrote it.

The best thing anyone has said about my writing?  The compliment some invisible employee bestowed when he or she framed my review and placed it on a bulletin board facing a well-traveled sidewalk on a busy road.

Kind of feels like I have a little "street cred."