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Monday, May 2, 2016

Song Sparrow

This new spring
flowers in hollow places,
golden forsythias hanging
azaleas lifting,
a pale sun goading
those next in line.

On a yellow day,
a year ago
I held a camera,
framed a bee
as it nosed
a bush fraught
with blossoms,
while just inside
you took shallow breaths,
the end furthering itself
with each exhalation.
Even then—
your body winnowed down,
carved like a branch—
we dared to dream of June,
blue hydrangeas,
the rose  bush I brought
one Mother’s Day.
Staring out the window,
you spoke of September,
tempting us
like a warm day
in mid-winter,
to plan for more.
But, the same way
a gale sweeps off
that giddy charade,
we could no longer
pretend to count time
in seasons, or weeks,
or even a day.

Somewhere outside,
a sparrow chirps
the same
staccato refrain
that pierced the
long afternoon
you lingered
in our world,
bird mouth receiving
eye-dropper meds.
I knew you were still
with us then,
how you listened as
we said last things,
the same way
each trill of
the sparrow
convinces me
you are here now,
have returned to fill
this vacant May,
your lips
framing a melody,
reminding us of
all that is sweet
about song.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Spring Cleaning

In the middle of a crisis in faith in regard to writing, I was offered an article from a local magazine I contribute to whenever they ask.  The topic of this piece was signature seafood dishes from area restaurants.  I never say no, even when the deadline is tight, and this one was.  I still said yes a few days later when the editor emailed to tell me she had to move things up a week.  Woo wee.  Time to get cracking.

The thing is, I’ve been in pondering mode for so long now with regard to the current novel in progress, writing the article felt like someone had opened a door to my brain and allowed the clean scent of spring to waft through.  Suddenly, the writer in me felt fresh and alive again.  A thousand-words I didn’t have to agonize over?  Now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.  The topic involved eight restaurants, three that were new to me.  What can I say? To write knowledgeably, of course I had to sample…

So, it was research when I spent Friday night with my husband in a street-front grille, slurping Nova Scotia oysters and enjoying a yummy fried-oyster slider.  Saturday, we worked in the yard all day. Then, since a nursery was offering a deal on a product we needed, and it happened to be located close to one of the other eateries I had yet to experience, after we finished our errand, we stopped in. More research meant a few more oysters for me and a deconstructed scallop and bacon appetizer we split that hands down, featured the best scallops I have ever eaten. 
Monday was a holiday in Massachusetts, and I still had one restaurant to investigate.  Discovering my dilemma, my husband's 83-year-old mother said, "Let’s go out to lunch."  Folks, lets just say I’m a nothing but a dutiful daughter-in-law. 
Licking my lips in memory, I finished up the article with days to spare.  The only bad news?   No expense budget came with this gig.  Such is a poor writer’s life. Tasty as it was, all that “research” sure munched into my profit.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

IWSG April. Cutting...Back

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group day!  For those writers looking for the support of peers, join us the first Wednesday of each month. Thanks to Captain Alex Cavanaugh and his minions, you can find more info and contributors here. 

You know what they say about first drafts?  All you have to do is finish them?  Well, here’s what they should say about second drafts.  They.  Are.  Bloody.  Hell.

There I was editing away.  Cutting lines and adding paragraphs, and then, like a truck driver with a load of cement who encounters an unexpected cliff, I stomped on the air brakes.  About a third of the way through my first draft, I’d clearly gone on a backstory roll. Page after page of tangent, essentially, an entire chapter that could be condensed into two or three sentences and seeded in somewhere.  Bottom line? 





I’ve spent days now, pondering how to clean it up, how to attach the threads from what I wrote before the dump, to events that occur afterwards. Ugh.

I"m not an outliner.  I wish I was, but sadly, the only way I can get a story out of me is to write it.  I actually remember sitting at the computer while this pile of backstory poured out, delighted to have discovered something so important about one of my main characters.  Yikes.

But, a wise writer once told me that backstory is how we writers tell ourselves our tale.  So, even as I ponder how to cobble together this project into something palatable, I’m cutting myself some slack.  The brain dump may be way too much detail for anyone else, but the information allowed me to make an otherwise unlikable character sympathetic.

That has to count for something, right?


I'm a few days late, but wishing all you A-Z bloggers luck for the month of April!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Old Holiday, New Treat

Early in my blogging infancy, I discovered a blog called Orangette, written by a woman named Molly Wizenberg.  Her blog features food and life, and how the two intersect and I love, love, love her writing style. Shortly after I found her, Molly published a book called A Homemade Life, which I promptly pre-ordered and which happens to be my current re-read.  In the book, she intersperses evocative essays relating to events in her life, followed by a recipe or two connected to the story. What more can I say except the woman writes from her heart, and in doing so, she reaches out to mine…along with, well, my tummy. 

Molly reminds me that I cook not only for the pleasure it gives me, but because beloved recipes connect me with the people and times I can no longer touch.  It's as if, through food, I can almost taste my way back.  I carried that theme forward this weekend when I made my Grandmother’s recipe for double-boiler scrambled eggs, as I do on Easter Sunday every year.  When I sat down for a plate of luxurious, soft scrambled eggs, for a moment I was present again at a mahogany dining table surrounded by my five siblings and my parents, with my grandmother reigning at the head. Later in the day, I roasted sweet potatoes to mash as a side to the pork tenderloin I served for dinner. That conjured up my late father-in-law, describing how when he was a kid, the street vendors in New Jersey sold hot, roasted sweet potatoes from a cart, and how he ate them as a snack. 
Then, there was the lemon cake.   

It was a strange Easter for us.  Our daughter is away.  Our next door relatives were elsewhere too, and the rest of our extended family went off in different directions, so at our house Easter dinner ended up including my husband, his mother and me.  A table set for three felt strange to all of us, and I suppose I wanted to do something to make the day more special for my mother-in-law.  Her mother, who was probably one of the kindest people ever born, made a lemon cake that is legendary in the family…but, for whatever reason, I don’t have the recipe.  Now though, I have Molly Wizenberg’s, which I served with a coulis I made with blueberries I picked last summer and froze.  That one dessert rocketed me back to the deep-set  eyes of Grandma Rogers, as well as the hot day last July when I stood on the shady side of the bushes. There were so many berries, I picked until my bucket, slung around my neck with a rope, hung heavy from my shoulders.. But the best part was this.  When I served the plate of lemon cake, my eighty-three-year-old mother-in-law took a bite and said, "This is delicious.  This makes me think of my mother.  She used to make a good lemon cake."

The combination of memory and food was entirely yummy, and let’s just say the dessert fed all of our hearts. Thanks to Molly, I’m pretty sure I just served up a new Easter tradition.

I’m not sure of the etiquette or (legality) of posting a recipe from Molly’s book here, but it seems others aren’t worried.  If you want to make her French-style YogurtCake with Lemon, here’s a link.  In addition, you can find the  coulis recipe here. For some reason the coulis page takes a long time to load...so if you have problems, cut and paste the address into your browser. http://www.fabulousfoods.com/recipes/blueberry-coulis

Monday, March 21, 2016

Glass Half Full

Late snow weaves white cloth
Hearty daffodils poke through
Sewing us to spring

Monday, March 14, 2016

Time Travel

Where was I last week?  It’s a long story…a sixteen-hour car ride story, but I’ll condense it.  We took a road trip to Charleston, SC for, well, I’ll call it family business. Mission accomplished, we put on our rally caps and did what three self-respecting tourists with less than twenty-four waking-hours together in a city must do.  We visited an island, took a carriage ride, walked through the market, strolled the waterfront, stopped for a drink, went out to dinner, and toured a plantation before two out of the three of us flew home.  Out of all of that, this is my favorite picture…the view from an original 1740 window of Drayton Hall, a “stabilized” (not renovated) plantation on the Ashley River.  

Less than a week later, I can assure you that sixteen hours in a compact car is entirely too long, but twenty-four hours in Charleston is way to short. The good (?) news?  We’ll be doing at least one, but likely two, return trips.

Can anyone explain to me why shrimp and grits never made it north of Virginia? I feel cheated.