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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Antipasto Perfect

Okay, if you are inclined, click on this link: Antipasto Perfect.  

I wrote this at the end of April and for reasons unknown to me, it took a while for South Shore Living to  press "publish."  Substitute the statement: "It's summer" with the "It's spring" I started it with two months ago,  and you'll get the essence of where my head was back then.  We've still had a lot of sloppy weather, but now that we've made it to the end of June, my tomato plants are blossoming and I'm picking the fresh lettuce grown in my own container garden. Things are looking up in the vegetable world these days...but even so, I have wonderful memories of our meal that night.

Oh and the picture in the post is of the actual platter the girls made, mounded on top of a pile of arugula.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Time Travel

My daughter and I were at the bookstore last week, searching for a purchase to use up her Christmas gift certificate, when a contemporary Young Adult cover displaying the tanned legs of a young couple swinging on a dock caught my eye.  I’m all about docks and water, so I pulled the book off the shelf, read the title: Seventeenth Summer, by Maureen Daly, and was transported back to the yellow checked bedspread under the quarter-canopy in my childhood bedroom where I used to spend hours reading. For a moment, I dreaded opening the novel; sure someone had attempted to update one of my favorite books from my youth.  But when I did, the copyright read 1946. The only thing new was the cover.

I’m not sure I had any idea that the novel was already thirty years old when I first read it sometime in the 1970’s.  All I knew was it written so well that I was compelled to read and re-read the simple plot line about a summer romance that was so much more.  With the memory of those delicious flopped-on-my-bed reads hovering in the forefront last week, I splurged and bought the book.  As soon as we arrived home I plunked myself down on the couch and began reading the old story, soon recognizing that good writing is good writing, whether it’s published in 1946, or 1972 or 2011

Good writing is about making readers live through and empathize with your characters, and as I turned page after page, I could not only see what seventeen-year-old Angie saw, I could also feel it.  I was transported back to that rare stratosphere of my own first love, when everything was new and brilliant, scary and amazing; when life was a volley back and forth between acute agony and indescribable joy and no matter what anyone told me, I believed, with complete certainty, that no one but me had experienced anything quite as amazing…ever.

It doesn’t matter that in Seventeenth Summer, the 1946 vernacular calls young men “fellows” or that Angie wears petticoats with her dresses and thrills at the simple act of wearing Jack’s basketball sweater.  It makes no difference that the storyline occurs in an era when anything more than a kiss was considered “fast.”  The story itself is timeless, universal and conveyed in words that deliver readers of any generation to that place we all remember, with language like this:
                “In the brightness of the morning last night didn’t seem quite real—as if it had been a movie which I had sat and watched but of which I had not really been a part.  I could hardly have been me who felt almost beautiful just because wind was fingering through my hair and the moon was thin like a piece of sheer yellow silk.  I knew in a little while I would be getting up and putting on blue denim slacks and eating cereal at the table beside the kitchen window and dusting window sills and talking to my mother about garden flowers and what to have for dinner just as I had for so many summers.  There would be no more of the exquisite uncertainty of last night, no queer, tingling awe at the newness of the feeling and no strange, filling satisfaction out of just being alive.”
Remember feeling that way? 


Happy weekend all.  What book transports you back in time?

Friday, June 17, 2011


In the over two years since my work-life changed, I am still surprised by the details I missed when I was sequestered in an office over eight hours of the day.

In one of those “life-gets-in-the-way,” moments, a person I was supposed to meet at 8:30 in a building in the heart of our town was delayed yesterday morning.  While waiting, I sat in the tiny municipal department carved from a corner of an antique former home, observing as folks conducted business, greeting each other with jokes, laughter, handshakes—and welcomed me with the same. 

It was the kind of day we’ve waited for over these cold weeks—blue sky and dry air, short sleeves and flip-flop weather without oppressive heat.  After giving up on the appointment, I stood on the stoop outside, letting the warmth sink deep, when the 57-bell Carillon from the Episcopal Church across the street struck the half-hour with a chiming melody, lasting several minutes.  As music resonated across the common and down the main street I stood, head tilted, mouth slightly open. 
In the nineteen years we’ve lived in here, I’ve heard the carillon play, of course.  In the summer, the church holds weekly concerts.  Folks pack picnic suppers and spread their blankets on the town common to listen as visiting masters perform.  One Thanksgiving weekend years ago, the tower was open for guests and we panted as we climbed the steps to the top to watch a woman play Christmas Carols.  I don’t recall though, hearing, or knowing that at the half-hour, instead of a one-note chime typical of many clock towers, an entire tune rings out, bounding through the trees, gamboling down the street.   

Yesterday, I learned that on any February, June or September morning,  at say, 9:30 or 11:30; or maybe 3:30 in the afternoon, if I happen to be at the right place, bell-shaped sounds will turn ordinary moments into magic, infusing me with a composition of gratitude for all that life is now.

What unique moments do you encounter in your small world?

Happy Weekend and Happy Fathers' Day!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Picture

the air strums like a guitar,
rings like a bell.
The weight of a butterfly
starts a yellow-eyed
daisy bobbing—
a fat bee bounces off the screened back door.
I watched a tan rabbit
hop from the woods
to the bell-flower patch lining the garden.
He sat—
sniffing the air,
before darting through
the yard to vanish
beyond the thickest hedges.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ever Onward

For the first time in what seems like a very long time, I’m sitting down to write a blog post with nothing huge on the immediate agenda. It amazes me that in the beginning, I wrote six days per week in Middle Passages. Now, I’m lucky if I post twice over the course of seven days. In the last several months I have learned I’m not a good multi-tasker. I tend to want to focus on one thing until it is finished and then move on, and when life involves a variety of stop and start responsibilities, being a uni-tasker isn’t such a good thing. But I’m learning.

Putting aside the distraction of last recitals and concerts, proms and graduation, family parties and part-time work, best I can tell things became more difficult in the juggling arena when I accepted the request to blog twice monthly at South Shore Living magazine. Coming up with topics and writing about them has been rewarding and fun. However the responsibility of completing those posts on deadline swallows me whole, to the degree that I struggle to write much about anything else until I’m done with the SSL blog posts. I’m ahead of the game right now; the editor has two of my pieces she has yet to publish…I’m pretty sure she’s got limited resources, and it seems like the Web is a secondary citizen to the print magazine. No complaints, as it gives me this little breather. Besides, that same busy editor offered me a real live paying article, and I’d be a liar if I told you that I can’t wait to see it in print in the July edition of the magazine.

In addition to the SSL writing, I have joined a group of folks who took the same fiction workshop I did this spring to form a writing group that meets twice a month. Prior to each session, two writers submit their work to the rest of the group to review and we spend our time together critiquing and offering suggestions. In all the best ways, this feels like being back at school—concentrating on the writing, or the reading, and learning from others. It is a joy to sit in a circle and converse with people who are as engaged and connected to writing as me, and a relief for once, to move forward with the process of improving the words, without having to justify the passion.

Along with the commitment to the writer’s group, things are about to get a bit more complex, as I agreed to write a weekly public relations update to appear in our town newspaper for our Council on Elder Affairs, starting this week. This is a paying job too, and highlights the value of networking. Soon after the corporate ax removed my head, I began volunteering at a weekly breakfast for the seniors in our community. When word spread that I was starting a freelance writing business, they hired me to write two brochures. Now they’ve contracted me to communicate the good work that happens at the Center as they begin a capital campaign to acquire funds to build a new building. When I arrived at my first volunteer day and splattered myself with warm frosting from a coffee cake, and dropped my tea pot, I had no thought that it would lead to this opportunity. It was worth the sticky pants and a broken kettle.

To be honest though, through all of this, the fiction writing suffers. Although when I lay awake at night I think about my characters and how their stories will progress; those developments have failed to make it to the page. I know myself though. When the summer ends way too soon, when college preparation is complete, when there is one less place to set at the table, I’ll be looking for a solid distraction. Then I’m pretty sure I’ll find it easy to immerse myself.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More Baby Steps

As I woke up Saturday morning, my husband turned to me, singing the song we video-recorded our daughter performing thirteen years ago at her pre-school graduation.  Several hours later, we watched 89 students in blue or white caps and gowns step their way down the aisle of a local music tent to the measured tones of Pomp and Circumstance.  Our daughter was number 73.

A million years ago, I dropped our girl off at daycare the first time and sobbed all the way to work.  When she started kindergarten, I cried, knowing that five years of her life had past, and now she would take critical, independent steps without us.  Each year, after Labor Day, when the start of school rolled around, tears etched channels down my cheeks as I watched her climb onto the bus, or walk into a brick building, knowing that more of her had already separated. Last fall, I stood by the window as she backed the car down the driveway on her first day of her final year of high school, swallowing hard and wondering what it would be like when the year was over.  Now, I swing in a cradle, inspecting my first days in the infancy of knowing.

Is there anything new that can be said about a child growing up?  Is there a way to describe the pride, nostalgia,  regret and joy that circle and weave, in precise terms that communicate these competing sentiments to those who have not lived it?  I think not. 
But in spite of all the conflicting waves of emotion, I am clear about one thing.   Forward is the only way.  So I keep going.  Typing blog passages, waving her off as she departs to work, smiling when she returns, and reserving a hotel room for college orientation at the end of this week.

Our job, all these years, has been to help her grow successfully while imbuing her with traits of strength, respect, caring and diligence.  Check, check, check and check.   

Now it's time for us all to move on.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

At this Moment

I love the promises June delivers along with the purple Dutch iris petals it unfurls on the first day of the month. June assures us that we will sleep with open windows; that we’ll close our eyes to the ratcheting croak of tree frogs and wake bleary-eyed at dawn to a chorale of robins, blue jays and wrens. June vows that the air will dabble like soft paint brushes and that even if it rains, we’ll jam our feet into flip flops–no socks required. It pledges short sleeve mornings, coffee on the patio—newness that unwraps like a gift. The calendar says late spring, but June turns the page and broadcasts summer with showy rhododendron blooms, screaming blue skies, and gardens that plump and swell.

I look out the window to Kelly green grass, to the birds swooping over the back, to the almost drained hummingbird feeder, filled to the brim two days ago, and know we are on the cusp of all that is good, all that is right, all that I wait for.