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Monday, February 8, 2016

Blizzard Warning

By the time you see this Monday morning, we'll be in the thick of a storm.  I'm going to channel my inner peace by thinking of this guy, who I caught overlooking the pond on Saturday.  Wishing you all a good week, and for those of you in storm range, light shovels.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pastry Primer - IWSG February

It's IWSG time again.  The first Wednesday of the month, when writers help other writers.  This is a blog hop so if you want to  read other posts, click here.  Today's post represents a blogoversary, too. Seven years ago this week, with absolutely zero forethought, I started Middle Passages.  Imagine that spontaneous decision lasting this long.  Happy writing to all!

One day this fall, I stopped into a French Bakery in my town.  I have quite a fondness for the place, not only because they bake croissants so flaky that when I finish one, the golden fragments remaining on my plate beg for a moistened finger.  No, food aside, seven years ago, while newly unemployed and trying to find my way, I spent Thursday mornings writing there while I waited for the library to open. Sitting at a colorful bistro table, sometimes I free-wrote.  Sometimes I took direction from one of my new writing books  (Natalie Goldberg’s, Writing Down the Bones comes to mind), but regardless of the topic, the work I did there lubed up my brain for some real writing once I claimed a spot at the library.

My recent visit to the bakery reminded me of those days, and before Christmas, I decided to step back into the habit.  I get out of work early on Fridays, so lately, rather than allowing myself to go home to get caught up in who knows what, I’ve been heading to the bakery for a little lunch. Then I go to the library. With a full belly, it’s easy to immerse myself in the quiet and serenity of the place and get a chunk of work done.  Between these now-sacred afternoons, and my routine of writing first thing each morning, I can happily say I’m approaching the end of my first-draft. 

My IWSG tip this month?  Get yourself something yummy to eat.  Then go somewhere you can’t be distracted and write.  Just say'n.  There's nothing like a cup of French Roast and a chocolate croissant for triggering an inspirational jump-start.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Still, at Sunset

Here's a Monday rest for your eyes.  For those in the mid-Atlantic and on the East Coast, nope, I sure didn't take this picture this weekend.  Hope those of you in the severe storm area are safe, warm and shoveled out.

Happy Monday.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The First Snow After

It starts in the evening.
Graining our reflections
it arrives absent 
chrysanthemums of joy.
a snake of memory poisons us.
Waist-high paths mapped 
with deer prints,
ewe trees gnawed to stub.
Standing tiptoe over
a bowling alley driveway. 
Piles, carted by dump trucks
that lingered to May, 
late spring birthing 
sludge and oil
where dirty white 
used to be.

First snow this year
coats us in trepidation.
We wake to four inches.
At dawn, the window panes 
and tree trunks,
hold on to the grey-light,
the ground over-exposed.
Black and white picture
developing into day.

Monday, January 11, 2016


I sat down at the computer today to get in my morning writing, and realized I hadn't even thought about a blog post for today.   It poured rain all weekend, and since I don't have much in the way of current photos to save the day, for fun, I scrolled without looking and then just stopped. Here's what you get.  Page 70 of my first draft of my current project. Happy Monday, everyone!

Doug finished shoving a bait bag into a trap before answering.  “I have a friend who uses my boat to go fishing sometimes.  He pays me with portions of his catch.  I grill up some of it and when there’s too much, I stick it in the freezer for other uses.”
            “What kind of fish?”
            “Mackerel, bluefish or striper, mostly.”  He rubbed his belly.  “I love me some bluefish on the grill.  But enough is enough sometimes.  Like I said, I’m single.  A man can only eat so much.”
            Cal studied him.  His neck between his hairline and collar was tanned, and the stubble that had appeared on his chin glinted in the sun.  The light hairs streaking down his brown arms, ended at a horizontal scar on the top of his wrist.  His T-shirt was spattered with salt water, his cut-off shorts bleached blue-white.  It occurred to her that other than with Jack all those years ago, she’d never been boating with someone who didn’t dress in white-soled boat shoes and nautical Polos. She glanced down at her linen capris, now wrinkled and speckled from the salt water spray.  Turning her attention to Doug and Will, she realized that while they hadn’t touched each other since the high five on the dock, they worked together without words, in a rhythm only possible between two people who had known each other forever.
            The lawyer caught her staring.  “Something on your mind?”
            Cal lifted a shoulder and dropped it.  “Lots of sharing going on.  You take care of your late friend’s son. You give your lobster away and get meals in return.  Your friend uses your boat and you end up with bate.  It’s just different.”
            “Different than what?”

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Winter Competition - IWSG

It's the first Wednesday of the month and time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. To read more writers in support of other writers, click here!

Ah, January.  My least favorite month, really. Around here, real winter, true winter, sets in right after Christmas, with cloudy skies and breathless cold.  And worse, ever since I became a mother, the month has always seemed filled with fits and starts.  Having taken time off work for Christmas, my little family would slog back to work and school, only to encounter snow related school closings or illness, the stress of unplanned time off compounding the letdown of the holidays.  While I’m off the hook on some of that now, I still dread the arrival of the first month.  Perhaps it would be different, if, as it is for my Australian sister, the New Year ushered in full summer and blooming roses instead of a harsh and frozen earth.  But it’s likely I’ll never experience that. Schooled in my own long history, I wake up on the first work Monday of the New Year, dreading the four weeks to come.

I know this though.  I just have to get through it.  So this past Monday, as I have on every work day for the last four years, I got up an hour early in order to write.  I had a bad, toss and turn night, and on waking at 5:45, a ghost of a thought slipped through my brain.  What if just today, I didn’t get up early?  What if just once, I turned over?  

Even in my sandy-eyed, drag-myself-to-the-shower exhaustion, a gem of pure pride sparkled up because that weasel of a temptation hadn’t gained a toe-hold.  Instead, I made myself oatmeal with all natural peanut butter and banana, drank my orange juice, wrapped myself in a down comforter and sat down at the computer.  After reviewing the last chapter I’d finished over the weekend, I began the next.  Five hundred and thirty-six words later, my “time-to-get-ready-for-work” alarm rang out. 

The score so far? Liza one.  January zero.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Word about Whimsy

Our neighbor called last weekend, inviting us to take a tour of his Christmas light display.  I’ve written about his property before, describing the elemental ways in which he composes and nurtures his land. This man builds stone cairns and labels them by spiritual influence. He creates contemplative labyrinths and invites folks to walk them. He builds bird houses with slate roofs reclaimed from an old train station.  Although their own kids are grown, his two-story tree house, complete with a trap door and turret, will host a Boy Scout camp-out soon, and he and his wife hold an annual Easter egg hunt for neighborhood kids involving thousands of eggs hidden around their property.  During the summer, they grow vegetables and raspberries, fat chickens cluck in a pen, rhododendrons and day-lilies flourish—and while the place is stunning, and in a way, mystical, during Christmas it transcends everything.

This neighbor spends two full weekends in November setting up lights that cover about 120 bushes dispersed through the woods.  There are no synchronized flashes or hot air Santa's bobbing on the breeze. Don’t get me wrong.  Those things have their place, and trust me, I’ve driven miles to see them.  But here; it’s as if, rather than stringing the lights, he finds a way to make his bushes bloom with them, and because of their luminescent, magical quality, one might expect to see fireflies and druids, maybe even Tinkerbell flitting about. Each time we drive by, I tell my husband the place is a fairyland.

Keep this in mind as I tell you about Saturday night, when my husband and I and our sister-in-law, along with our daughter and nephew, both 22, walked over to visit.  There we joined another group, including two young children, and almost as soon as we began walking the paths, our host told the little ones, “If you find any fairy doors, make sure you knock before looking inside,” He pointed his flashlight toward a tree, where he’d carved a door to fit the shape of the natural opening between the roots, complete with a knob.  Following instructions, one of the little boys opened it to find a plastic figurine inside, ordinary I suppose, except nothing was that night. 

All throughout the walk, even the adults took turns, tapping at tiny doors to discover the surprises inside. Our daughter marveled at one, “It even has a slate floor.”  Toward the end of the tour our host spoke again to the little boys.  “If you come upon the fairies' treasure, only take one piece, so they don’t get mad.”  The last door they opened contained a pile of shiny beads and baubles.

Our daughter and nephew have visited this neighbor since they were little. They already speak its history, of the days before the cairns and labyrinths, when as toddlers they petted his goats and held chicken eggs, warm in their hands.  They learned generosity through the Easter egg hunt, when first, they experienced the joy of retrieving, and later, spent afternoons filling plastic eggs for those who still believed. They encountered mystique as they climbed into a tree house castle at twilight, and discovered how raspberries just off the bush taste so much better than what comes in a carton.  All through their lives, through his land, our neighbor has offered up stories and lessons.  This time, I hope they learned one more--that it's always right to invest in whimsy.