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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Winding Down

Always in December, I rediscover the whimsy of colored lights blooming on the tiny pines in our backyard, the majesty of the staid white lights adorning the spotlighted bushes in front.  This year, I dragged my husband not once, but twice through a neighborhood of McMansions a few miles away, whose owners compete, embellishing their yards with glittering swarms of lights— blinking bangles of bracelets and necklaces, entire collections wrapped around every branch of every tree.  It's the season of decoration.  I love the white crocheted angels we tucked away for safety seven years ago when the kitty arrived and rediscovered this year—and the antique music box unpacked from its nest of tissue and placed at the center of the table.

The Christmas season delivers such a sense of wonder that a pit of loss expands in my gut when I think of packing up the nutcrackers gracing our mantel, of pulling the bows off  the drooping Christmas tree before tossing it out the back door, of driving up to a house lit by a single lamp post. 

But yesterday provided a reminder... 

Though a high pressure system painted the sky blue, the wind howled through the trees, brooming the bare lawn with a litter of pine branches.  When you live by the shore, wind brings a show.  So yanking on hats and scarves and pulling out two cameras, my husband and I drove down to the harbor and tiptoed up a private drive to the porch of a stone and brick boathouse. 


There we watched seagulls chase a late afternoon lobster boat to his mooring, while waiting for a setting sun to reflect pink on the clouds in the eastern sky.  Sheltered from the chillling gusts, we hoped to capture an extraordinary moment on an ordinary winter day. 

In the end though, an off-shore breeze limited the ocean’s drama, and the wind drove the clouds away.  Disappointed, we turned back toward the car and discovered a subtle show taking place behind us—the backlit legs of the boarded-up yacht club, peeling aqua paint flaking from an abandoned wooden dinghy. 

Clicking away, we recalled the blessings these quiet adornments offer year round—a silent beauty always available—one that never has the need to compete.  

Wishing you all a New Year filled with beauty.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Deja Vu Blog Fest

 DL Hammons had this great idea, and, together with Creepy Query Girl, Nicole Ducleroir, and Lydia Kang, is sponsoring the Deja Vu Blogfest.  The guidelines require re-running a favorite blogs post so it gets some more "air time." You'll find one of my favorites below:
Check out the other participants and have a great weekend!

A Hunger for Words

“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way.

Saturday my husband, daughter and I drove to Rhode Island on a preliminary college reconnaissance mission. After strolling through curving asphalt paths past the red-brick buildings at University #2, we took a detour through Providence, up through Federal Hill to a specialty Italian Food Emporium that I visited seven years ago, but have not been to since.

We had no plan to purchase, only to wander around the large central glass case where soft lights shined on home-made Italian delicacies, layered lasagnas, breaded eggplants, stuffed green artichokes, bracciole and hard sticks of imported pepperoni. My mouth salivated at the bins of briny olives, wedges of salty Parmigiano Reggiano, meaty slabs of prosciutto, expensive green olive oils, and balsamic vinegars that pour like syrup. We inhaled the scent of garlic and stared at the side wall-freezers stacked with frozen flavored raviolis—butternut squash, lobster, mushroom and cheese.

Around us, clerks spoke in Italian accented English, and in the corners, white haired men sat at marble tables, black button-up shirts opened at the neck as they sipped red wine and a yellow drink I took for Limoncello. Any temptation we had to open our wallet faded at the line of customers stacked two deep in front of a smiling cashier. We left, after savoring the complimentary pizzelle slathered with Nutella a cheerful clerk offered us, wishing for five more circuits through the store, a bottomless purse, and a walk-in freezer back home in which to store the delicacies. Can you believe that we only went to look?

Of course I longed to buy things at the store in Providence, but rationalized not doing so by labeling it a big-picture visit. We would have relished the Nicoise olives I wanted to buy, the quarter pound of textured cheese I imagined ordering, the anticipation of dinner as we plunged lobster ravioli into boiling salted water—we would have savored it all—but then—it would have been gone—a short term extravagance, swallowed and then forgotten.

Instead I left empty-handed but dreaming about the store offerings, which I subsequently cataloged to use at my own discretion. Now that the images and smells from Saturday reside in my memory, I can pull them out when I want to serve them in a story, as an appetizer or a dinner, arranged on a bright blue terracotta platter beside a stem of plump red grapes and a sweating bottle of chilled white wine. I can slice hard sausage and place it in layers on a decorative plate along with ripe tomatoes and dripping mozzarella, dribbling the whole thing with aged balsamic. I can serve steaming artichoke hearts and lemon aioli beside plump stuffed mushrooms, using an ornate silver spoon—or slather garlic infused white bean puree onto toasted ciabatta bread, sprinkling the tops with chopped green parsley.

I can eat until my stomach protests, or graze, an olive here, a sliver of cheese there, a dip of bread into a simmering pink vodka sauce. The feast can arrive at midnight, or three in the morning or for breakfast, and I can offer it to friends or eat it all by myself, licking my fingers one by one when finished. In brief, I can dish up whatever I want, when I want, with whom I want, and however I choose to design the layout of the luxurious repast, well, it all came to me for free.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Measuring Up

I have been writing.  Just not...here.  To read the most recent hunger-inspiring essay on South Shore Living, click here.  How bad is this?  I forgot to check and see if it was posted...and it was...two weeks ago.

Other than that it's been a goal of 1,000 words a day on the old WIP.  If you add the limited time I've spent writing on weekends to the weekday mornings I exceed my goal, perhaps, like the title in the piece above, I might be measuring up too. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


As I walked toward the town Christmas Festival this weekend, an event I’ve attended with my daughter for the last 10+ years, a fire truck drove by, its siren blaring and horn honking.  Santa rode shot gun in the passenger seat on his way to our town common.  There he disembarked, waving a white-gloved hand to the line of toddlers staring in awe.  I paused; a lump of memory squeezing my throat, as he crouched in front of a tiny boy, then crossed the frozen grass to mount his red sleigh. 

Over all her Santa-believing Christmases, we never took our daughter to the mall to meet St. Nick, preferring this open air, non-commercial event instead.  Each year, surrounded by the white-steepled churches and antique homes, she’d clamber up to sit beside Mr. Claus and have her picture snapped.  Not for us the crush of crowded shopping centers, holding coats and hands of sweaty children for eternal minutes, while standing in long, snaking lines.  We may have stamped cold feet, but we never waited long.  After the photo-opp, we’d wander through the festival venues, before retreating to the Second Parish Church where we’d pick up the Polaroid picture of our girl sitting beside Santa, elves had fashioned into an tinsel-covered ornament. 
When her Santa years ended, she and I continued to attend the Festival together, stopping first at the Episcopal Church for their used book sale, before trotting down to the congregational church for bowls of homemade clam chowder.  At a table in the back room, we’d crumble our crackers into the thickened soup and slurp its salty goodness.  

This year, after purchasing five books, I headed down for chowder, but with my festival partner off at college, I didn’t have the heart to eat there alone. I purchased a pint to go, crossed the common to the community center where the Greek Orthodox Church was selling Baklava, spending my last $3.00 on a piece to share with my non-chowder-eating-husband.  Then I headed home.  In all, it was a lovely day, except for the undercurrent of missing my regular companion.
Here is where karma pops in.  Our daughter’s name is not uncommon, though its spelling is.  Living with my own misspelled and mispronounced appellation, I should have suggested we think a little harder before we named her, but that’s hindsight.  As a result, she too has experienced a lifetime of misspellings.  She, her dad and I lift our eyebrows on the rare occasions we encounter someone who spells it the same.

So Saturday, after I arrived home, still thinking about her, I dug a spoon into my cooling broth and perused one of the books I’d purchased at the book sale.  Two sentences into it, the main character’s name jumped out at me—my daughter’s name, spelled correctly.  Imagine that.  There I was strolling around alone at that festival, and she was with me all along.  

No doubt I'm going to like that book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Dose of Inspiration

Once in a while you do something for the fun of it, and the rewards are greater than expected.  The gentlemen referenced below attend the Monday breakfast for seniors at which I volunteer. Each of these men are engaged and eager and live lives replete with laughter. The three youngest asked me to write the story in honor of the their 96-year-old golfing buddy. The story received good placement in the "Citizen's News" in our local newspaper which catapulted the four subjects "over the moon."  As for me, well, this was one of the most enjoyable and inspiring pieces I've had the fortune to write over the past two years.

If I every feel tired, or heaven forbid, too old, I'm going to remember the fun I had interviewing these men and writing their story.  Then I'm going to go out and do something I love.

(Click on the article to get a larger view.)


Thursday, November 24, 2011

So Much More than Turkey...

This is a repeat of a post I wrote last year, a few days before Thanksgiving..  The count is 29 for today, our Coast Guard nephew having been transferred.  Other than that, little has changed for which I am entirely grateful.  Happy Thanksgiving.

I love this week. Really I do. We’ve been putting on Thanksgiving for so long that we know how to manage it—even when we goof and realize that the head count of 29 is really 30. We know what to prep ahead of time, how to spread four—no, make that five tables through the dining room and living room—oops, six if you count the little table we put up for the two youngest boys. We know that people will bring extra and that there will be more than enough food, even for teenagers who go back for plates piled with seconds. We know that  though the bar has to be set up in the garage, adults will gather on the old rug we spread on the cement floor in front of the table and ignore the tools and shovels lining the walls—while the teens will find a haven in the basement. We know at meal time, as the hosts, my husband and I will have to situate ourselves on the kitchen-side of the table because otherwise, we’d never get out.

I love prepping good food for our family; apple pies, pecan pies, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans. I love that now that we must have two turkeys, I can try new stuffing recipes, knowing that Mom-in-law will bring her family favorite so I’m not even messing up tradition. I love that our brother-in-law will bring squash and sweet potatoes and creamed onions and that his quiet assurance will keep me calm during that critical and crazy half-hour before we get the food on the table (well, on the counter—with 30 people, we HAVE to serve buffet style.)

Most of all, I love the tickle of anticipation, today, tomorrow, on Wednesday and especially those quiet few minutes— just before everyone arrives; when the house is dusted and vacuumed, the pictures and mirrors shine, the tables are set, the do-ahead things are resting on the counter and the three of us look at each other—excited for the festivities to begin, knowing that not only will we be celebrating with a huge family—on Thanksgiving we'll be surrounded by our friends.

Wishing you a joyful, happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Need

I don't do this often.  In regards to blogging, in some strange way, even though it's all out there, I tend to keep things close to the vest.  I write, I read blogs, I follow, I comment, but I'm not into the big splash of contests and awards and prizes.  Not that I mind those who are, it's just not me.  So as you read this, please know that I'm writing these words because in this case, I embrace the assistance this social networking or what ever it is, can offer.

Over the two years plus since I started Middle Passages, I've "met" so many people I admire, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that some are more special than others.  We all click with different people.  In my case, Carolina Valdez Miller has been a regular champion.  She's an astounding writer who has offered me such insight and encouragement.  She sits at the top of the list of people I'd like to emulate--in my writing sure, and now in a more giving manner.

I'm not going to say much more.  Instead, I'm going ask you to click here so you may read Carol's words yourself.  If you can help--wonderful. If not, you'll find some amazing and passionate writing, and your day will be better for it.

Monday, November 14, 2011


My insides tend to drop a little when summer comes to an end.   It’s a symptom of living in New England.  I know what’s coming.  Fall arrives and dread ensues.   This year though, we’ve had a warm autumn, so my seasonal adjustment occurred later than usual.  I threw on my lined jacket for the first time last week; grateful for the leather gloves stuffed in the pockets from last spring.  

Something clicked though, at 4:17 pm on Saturday afternoon, at which point the house smelled like cinnamon and cloves from the pumpkin bread I’d baked to freeze for Thanksgiving.  My hands were stiff from Murphy-Oil-Soaping the kitchen cupboards.  Beef stew simmered on the stove top.  My husband entered the kitchen after a day of raking, carrying in the aroma of fresh air and pine, mulched needles and composting leaves.  He crumpled paper, laid kindling and lit a match.  A puff of smoke billowed from the fireplace before the draft inhaled the smoke upward.  

At that exact moment, like a picture in time lapse photography, I transitioned from summer to fall, from afternoons plowing through glimmering water on a following sea, to bone deep warmth delivered by seasoned logs popping on a cast-iron grate. 

It’s so hard to relinquish summer.  It takes me weeks to let it go, to settle into long hours cooking in the kitchen, afternoon sunsets, earthy red wines alongside dishes of thickened stew.  The missing piece though, arrives with fire—hot embers wrapping me in cashmere heat, offering me permission to tuck myself inside.   

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The One I Didn't Expect

I have mixed feelings about the new part-time job I’ve taken.  I loved the quality product offered at the specialty food and cheese shop where I worked for the last fourteen months.  But an opportunity developed and for reasons with which I shan't bore you, I've moved on.   The upshot is that instead of working 2-3 full (and I do mean full) days per week, I’m working four short days and even though daylight savings deserted us on Sunday, I get home before dark.

Which means there was still plenty of light on Tuesday when I walked to the bedroom, sloughed off the professional clothes I haven’t worn in over two years, pulled on my blue jeans and sat down to finish a freelance-writing-related invoice.  Then, I looked out the window. 
The sun was burning through the trees behind our house, and on a hunch, I grabbed the camera, climbed into the car and drove to the pond, 300 yards down the street.  As I suspected, the sun mirrored itself on the motionless water. I forget you lose all subtlety when you take pictures directly into the sun though.  Standing on tiptoe to try to reach above the reeds cluttering my view, I clicked the shutter 16 times, hoping to capture the sunset sinking below the horizon, while it flamed into the pond below. 

I only turned away from the sunset once.  Gosh, I’m glad I did.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Write Shot

Sometimes I contemplate what life was like in the dinosaur days, you know, before digital camera.  Before I say anything further, let me assure you that I know old fashioned film photography still results in the best photos.  If you question me on that, click here
Anyway, though I remain an amateur photographer, I have loved taking shots of the world around me since receiving my first Instamatic camera before leaving for college. Back then though, photography involved heartbreak.  I’d buy film, use it all up, mail it off to an out-of-state developing lab and tap my fingers waiting for my pictures to arrive home a week later.  Opening the envelope, I’d swallow disappointment at blurry shots, photos that were too dark or over exposed--pictures nowhere near as beautiful as the vision recorded by my eyes. 

My now-husband gave me my first 35MM camera for my 25th birthday.  With it came the ability to focus, take close ups, telephoto pictures and filtered shots.  My sister still tells the story about how when tailgating at a football game, I artfully arranged a glass of wine and an apple in different corners of our red-checked picnic blanket, forbidding anyone to eat until I Iined up a perfect shot.  The resulting picture came out expensive and ordinary.

With digital photography though, I've discovered the freedom to take shot after shot, to experiment with settings and apertures, to crawl in the grass to freeze a view from a different perspective, without worrying about expensive film.  The best thing though, is the computer age has offered the additional luxury of editing packages offering darkroom capabilities at the click of a mouse.  

Downloading pictures to the computer, I shave off unimportant aspects and highlight what I want, changing the perspective and focus along the way.  

Even when a picture come out a lesser quality, I play with it and improve it, and know in the end, I have an opportunity highlight the ordinary, to make it sing.

It strikes me the whole process is an awful lot like writing, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group - November

Over the twenty-plus years I worked in HR for a national retail chain, I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up.  Over the course of that career, I performed as a high-functioning “square peg in a round hole.” Since the job paid well and the location and challenge level enabled me to be an available mom for our growing daughter, I stuck to it.  When the business began to struggle and layoffs occurred, I thought, “If I go, I don’t know what I’ll do next, but I won’t do this.”   Of course, I said those things thinking: “It will never happen to me.” 

Until it did. 
Most Middle Passages readers know that the day after my job disappeared, words welled up inside me, and a blog was born.  Two months later, I’d scored a personal essay relating to my layoff in the Boston Globe Magazine.  I’d been published in a niche magazine a few times prior, and won a monthly writing contest on WritersDigest.com.  But an essay in The Globe fulfilled a long-held dream, and for the first time in my life, I thought, “Good gosh, maybe I really am a writer.”

Working with my outplacement coordinator, I sculpted a freelance writing business, then took a part-time job to help tide over the uneven nature of the freelance beast, and continued my own writing.  Through the encouragement of The Artist’s Way, I challenged myself to write a book.  I “finished” that one, if you call getting the story down on paper and muscling through one revision “finished.”  A print out sits in a folder on my desk in my living room under a pile of books.  Last winter, I started writing another one and currently hover at about 50,000 words and change.

Here is my insecurity. I’m starting a new part-time job on Monday, which is a marginal economic improvement over my current situation. Until the layoff, I was a significant contributor financially to the bottom line.  For the last 2.5 years though, I’ve been a drag on our resources and yet for the first time ever, I’m doing what I know I want to do.   I’ve earned a few more publishing credits.  The writing friends I’ve made on line and in person support and challenge me and my husband stands beside me.  But guilt wheedles its way in and tweaks down deep.  Our daughter has just started college.  My lack of earnings impacts not only our present circumstances, but our future retirement, yet, when I contemplate going back full-time to the business world, nausea ensues.  

What if my focus on writing is nothing more than a big excuse to avoid doing what I should be doing?  Sometimes I’m afraid the word after my name shouldn’t be writer.  It should be fraud.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"Perfect Day" Encore

I am resurrecting this post to participate in Where Sky Meets Ground NaNoWriMo Video Songfest.  No Nano for me, but good music is always a good cause! For those of you taking time away from your 50K to read this...best wishes!

As a three-year-old, our daughter watched the same Peter Rabbit videos every weekend when she was home from daycare, before her nap, while resting on a sheepskin rug my sister sent years ago from Australia. The stories were as naive as they have always been, a silly goose who trusts a fox to watch her eggs, a disobedient rabbit who escapes from a farmer’s garden.

The graphics were simple, yet unlike many of the videos and books that our girl demanded to “Do again! Do again!” they never bored me. Rather than gnashing my teeth after the thousandth viewing, I sat mesmerized, addicted to the haunting, ethereal introductory music which stroked like light fingers on cool skin. Each time we watched one, I waited impatiently for the closing credits, which included the same song. No one was allowed to speak while it was playing.

Like all things toddler, we grew out of this video habit. We put the tapes aside and forgot about them until last fall when I was cleaning out cupboards and discovered one tucked in back. Waving it above my head, I literally jumped up and down before turning to face my wide-eyed husband. “Remember how much I loved the song from this? Thank goodness we still have a VCR. I can hear it one more time.” Popping it in, the music began and I froze, head cocked, inhaling the sound of the piano, the flute, the crystal-voiced performer. Sitting as still as I could, I let the music bleed through me. When it was done, I moaned to my husband. “I hate to get rid of this. This song is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.”

The good news is that one person in our house had his brain turned on that day. “Find the name of the artist in the credits and see if you can download the song from ITunes,” my husband suggested.

Oh how I love that man.

The artist is Miriam Stockley, the Song is "Perfect Day" and when it came on my play list as we ate dinner Saturday night, I paused, as I always do, while the lyrics and voice seeped like a slow brook way down to my center, to puddle at the heart of all I love, at the core of my softening soul.

Words and music and art--sometimes they tickle like a hot breath at the back of your neck or cause you to shiver like a kiss on the ear. But we are luckiest when they are arranged in an ultimate combination, the one that seems to speak to us alone, the one that stops us cold.


If you'd like to see the clip from the beginning of the Peter Rabbit videos we watched with our daughter all those years ago, including a repeat of the song, click here.

Do you have a song, a poem, a picture that touches you this way? If so, care to share?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weekend Winds

(To give you some perspective, this is a picture I posted to Middle Passages two weeks ago, on a mildly windy day in mid October.)

Yesterday on the way to complete some weekend errands, my husband and I took a detour to the water.  It’s sort of a tradition, I guess, when you live by the coast, to do an ocean drive-by when there’s been inclement weather.  So, we buckled ourselves into the car and made the trip across town under the partial sun that had erased most of the remnants of Saturday’s storm. 

It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve seen it.  When we turned the corner over Cunningham Bridge and saw the ocean spewing and sloshing as if deep down, some middle earth agitator had gone mad, we both yelled: “Oh my!” 

Our car made tracks in the sheet of sand glazing the beach parking lot.  Pulling up to the sea wall, we stared as the normally placid waters of Massachusetts bay rose up, heaving and spewing; regurgitating  itself over the exposed granite ledges.  

But, when the white foam of a monster wave crashed over Minot Lighthouse a mile out, we drove back home and got the cameras.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Breakfast Cronicles

Those living in close proximity to the Massachusetts South Shore might be interested in visiting the locations I've written about in my two most recent South Shore Living posts, below.  For you readers from far away...well, there nothing wrong with living...or eating, vicariously, right?

Rainy Day Diner

Over and Easy

Happy weekend to all.  And if you are so inclined,  I'd love to hear about your favorite breakfast haunts!

Monday, October 24, 2011

October Sky

It was 60 degrees and partly cloudy when my husband asked if I wanted to take a last ride in our dinghy before he rolled it out behind the shed and covered it for the winter.  Sigh.  I’m a fair-weather boater.  When I get cold, I tend to stay that way for a long, long time so late October is well past my season.  I love the little boat though, so I hemmed and hawed, and finally agreed, pulling on a hooded sweatshirt and packing my windbreaker and a fleece.  

We trailed the boat one town over to Hingham Harbor, which is about five times the size of ours.  Depending on the channel you use, it leads out to Massachusetts Bay or to Boston Harbor and is pocked with small islands.  Its waters wend around World’s End, a park I’ve written about before, presenting stunning views of glacial drumlins mounding up through the trails.  I’ve never toured the harbor by boat.

And, yea, I got cold and the water got choppy, and we had to cut our scenic trip short when the wind blew up swells too great for the twelve-foot Meggie Lou.  But before that happened, we motored past the high tide line marking granite islands, and within a few yards of a pack of cormorants preening their feathers and hanging their wings to dry.  We churned through the afternoon sparkle on the water, envying the lobster boat far ahead cutting through washing-machine waves with ease.  We toyed with following him, but steady rollers began to lift our engine out of the water, making forward momentum impossible, which meant it was time to come about. 
When we turned, we had a long trip back. I pulled my hood over my baseball cap and held it closed with my hands.  With the wind at our back, I watched  the October sky unfurl in length like lead-colored batting,  and stitch itself  to the corners of our patch-worked autumn  earth.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Behind, but Forward

Pounding rain has coincided with a day off from scheduled work.  The bones are stiff from yesterday's eight-and-a-half-hour marathon at the cheese shop, and six hours of sitting at the computer today. It's all good though, because I just found a forgotten bag of potato chips, stashed in the top cupboard.  Before seeking out refreshments, I put good effort in on a personal essay I hope to send out soon, and then after some well-overdue commenting on several blogs, forced myself to complete about 500 words on the old WIP.  (As an aside, I have a difficult time using that term…I don’t take myself seriously enough as a writer.  Anyone else have that little problem?).

Anywhoo, now it is time to write a blog post and as usual lately, I’m stymied.  So, if you don’t mind, this is going to be an amalgamation.

For starters, I have been so behind on blog writing and reading, I missed out on Alex Cavanaugh’s  and Matthew McNish’s  Pay it Forward Blog Fest.  The purpose was to recommend three bloggers so others will find them.   Alex is one of the most generous, giving and forward thinking writers I’ve had the fortune to “meet,” and while I’m five days late, the idea was so thoughtful I wanted to participate.  As for Matthew, well, I hope someday I’ll have a query he will critique.  In the meantime, if you have one you’d like to submit, check out his site.

So, in spite of the fact I’m trailing the proverbial pack, I’d like to recommend  two bloggers that I’ve discovered recently.  To that end, please check out Mainewords.   Marcy not only offers to critique the first page of your manuscript, her blog also includes stunning photos along with her prose.  Speaking of photos, Missing Moments, a blog I found a few months ago, is filled with such amazing pictures, I sigh when I see them, and envy her photography skills.

Number three is a blogger I’ve known for a while, but please have a look at Anne Gallagher’s new site:  Anne Gallagher, Regency Romance Writer .  Anne's site is a perfect representation of her work, AND features a stunning masthead painted by Bridget Chicoine, a writer, artist, blogger I’ve been a fan of since my early days online.  You can find Bridget’s painting site here, and her writing site here.

And lastly today, for those of you in revision hell…err, heaven, click here to read The Geyser 5-Step Approach to Revision by  Brian Klems at Writer’s Digest.  I can’t wait to get to a point where I can use his advice.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Warming up While the Season Cools Down

As I write this, it is 63 degrees in my house.  The thermometer in the back yard reads 71.  The sun is too low in the sky to get over the trees and our home stays in a perpetual state of shade.  I am sorry to say, we are preparing for winter.   

The boats have been pulled, we’ve begun yanking down the storm windows and the two cords of wood we ordered fill the cutout in the driveway.  Being frugal Yankees though, we can’t even consider turning on the heat yet.  It’s the time of year we wear our sweaters inside, taking them off when we leave the house, donning them again when we return. 

Experience has taught me well.  The best way to get rid of the chill is to get out from under the trees and today, when I returned home to a cold house after the Monday a.m. volunteer stint, I chose not to stay.  Instead I grabbed the camera.   

In the car, the sun heated the air while a cracked window delivered a sharp freshness I drew deep into my lungs.  The fleece jacket on the seat beside me remained untouched while a trip around town to capture some October images delivered its own, internal warmth.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Burn

This is a rerun from last year.  I was pondering a post along the same vein, and then decided this one says it all.  To give you some sense of the changes going on here...the first picture is taken from the same spot as the photo in the Middle Passages masthead...just a few months later.  

On the shore, the term “mild” holds great meaning. It’s a matter of degree, but all influences touch us less. Except for occasional Nor’easters that barrel up the coast, our winters are softer. We get less snow; the ocean temperatures stop the air from becoming quite as cold. In the summer, heat waves stifle, but the sea offers a puff of air, a hint of dampness, a reduction in the swelter, noticed primarily by those who travel here from interior places.

Our autumns are calm too, sometimes in weather, always in color. Fall by the ocean rolls in with a serene glide that quilts us in shades more muted then those found in the mountain country up north. Weeks after the first flames whip through the sugar maples of Vermont and New Hampshire, we wait to reach peak color. When it appears, it’s hung by a more reserved artist, one who uses soft brush strokes to paint from a pallet of gold and fawn.

Skeins of subtle crimson wind through trees standing next to their still-green peers. Marsh grasses fade from emerald to taupe. We wait, for the splash, the celebration, an explosion of color to emerge, and then remember it doesn’t happen here. Instead, the colors leak in, seeping under a crack in the door, in slow burning embers we fail to recognize until the end of the party—when the pale sun butters a few remaining hickory leaves and our restrained burn looses its fuel.  Coals diminish, cinders shift and before long, all that remains is a pile of glowing ashes. Rubbing our arms we look to the empty-fingered trees pointing to a smoke colored sky, and realize that before we got a chance to enjoy it, the heat drained from our smoldering autumn fire.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Catching Up

The eighteen-year-old in our family, currently residing one state north, was home this weekend for the first time since starting college.  As the two of us sat with windows rolled down at the beach, sipping our favorite coffee, she informed me I’ve been slacking in my blogger duties.  “I keep checking Mom, but there is never anything new.”  I hung my head.   I’ve joined two writing groups, one local and one online, each of which require reading and critiquing, and I’ve given myself a writing goal that means putting Middle Passages on the back burner, for now. There is writing going on, behind the scenes, and lot of everyday living, but not so much happening here.  Sometimes, you can’t do it all.
But then, you get a warm long weekend in October when the sky is so clear the land has sharp edges.  The points on the oak leaves are visible and the outlines of the houses lining the harbor are etched in fine pen and ink. You walk a barrier beach, picking up flat stones and skimming them across a mild chop toward the sailboats still moored against a backdrop of yellowing trees, and take a trip in the dinghy through late season rollerstoward a lobster boat hauling its traps, out by the rocks.    On the shore, sea grass turns from blonde to brown to rust, and all this provides fodder for a blog post, especially because you happened to remember a camera.

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