Home   |   LCS Prints Store   |   About Me   |   FAQ   

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Life in Details

I know why I love summer.  Light clothes and flip-flops, fresh tomatoes warm off the vine, walking on the beach and skedaddling back from the froth at shore-line.  These are the things I wait for all winter.  But also it seems, each year during the summer months, I can count on a weekend to arrive and deliver unexpected joy. I'll think each time as it happens...This is the one, and I'll settle in for the time, knowing whatever we are experiencing, it will never be replicated to the same degree.  But no matter.  When it's over, I'll savor the memory for the freedom and peace and heart-ease it delivered.

The plan was to join my husband’s brother and his wife at a camp they have use of on a lake in mid-Maine, but the weather, calling for cool, overcast and showery, didn’t cooperate. So instead, we met them at their home, outside of Portland, and decided to wander the city.  It was just one of those things, “tinkle” shopping we call it, drifting down the street in Old Port, stopping where we wanted, tasting, sipping, fingering, finally stopping for lunch, where I ate an inspired sandwich, bacon, goat cheese and tomato…try it, it will not disappoint.  Late in the afternoon, we found ourselves trekking through Monument Square, and to the top of the Westin Hotel, for a glass of wine with a 360 degree view of Portland, up where the wind buffeted the seagulls as they dipped and soared.  The sky had cleared by then, and while we watched, a dot on the horizon became a hot air balloon drifting by, red and colorful against a back drop of city and sky…a detail, yet one that made the day memorable and complete.

We returned home the next day, in time to scoop up our daughter and head south, to Cape Cod and the Barnstable County Fair.  We aren’t huge fair goers, but we’d agreed long ago to attend this one, to see a family musical group perform.  I’m not much for pop-culture, but every once in a while my daughter clues me in to something that hits…well, a cord.  In this case, it’s the Willis Clan, a family of singer/dancers from Tennessee.  One Saturday night about two months ago, my daughter said, “Listen, Mom. You’ll like this,” before playing a couple of their songs, ethereal, evocative, violins, Irish flute, the bodhran, music that always drapes my heart.  She was right.  Soooo, Sunday, off we went…to watch twelve children born to the same two parents, (who if you ask me look like kids too), in an hour-long performance of music that literally brought me to tears with its beauty.  Afterwards, the entertainers, age 23 and downward, stood there patiently, and with good humor, signing autographs and taking pictures with a line of folks snaking through the fairground.  
It’s another detail to clutch at like the red balloon.  Remember the day we went to the fair? 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


The Native American name for the town where I live means “long rocky place,” and as resilient New Englanders built their farms here, they cleared stones, then lined their borders with them.  Although our land backs up to deep woods, we know long ago, the place was clear, because the stone wall lining one side of our property trundles deep into second growth, meandering through pine and oak before ending up by a pond.  I have this image of a farmer in a straw hat, driving his cows there to drink.

The front of our property is lined with stone too, a tumbled row of rocks placed back when our road was the major north-south byway, long before the two lane highway was built.  I like our wall the way it is, a bit toppled, covered with moss and lichen, speaking a language of history and antiquity. Two houses across the way have had their stone walls rebuilt and they look nice, straight, planned, beautiful evenbut they no longer conjure up evidence of what came before.

My attention to stone walls occurs because we are having work done at our house.  Our 1958 “custom” ranch rests on a plot carved out of a bigger piece of land, and if you look out the back door, almost half of the backyard is ledge.  Over the twenty-three years we’ve lived here, we’ve added shrubs and gardens, and like those ancient farmers, we’ve encountered many a rock.  My husband shaped walls, too, placing stones to mark off edges and paths.  But, as we know from our antique wall in front, without footings, stones sink, or heave with the frost, and in our case, become reabsorbed by the ground.  Add to that a fifties-style, concrete block patio, with broken tiles and moss too thick to scrape.  In a last “do-it-ourselves” effort this spring, we tried to clean the patio with a power washer,  but after coating ourselves in mud, we caved and hired a stone mason to build walls and update the patio.

The man doing the job has been in business around town for years and his work is stunning.  In truth, we never thought we’d be in a position to hire him.  But his quote was competitive, and now things are in progress.  Nineteen-inch sitting walls are taking shape, straighter and perhaps more “stylish” than what they’re replacing, but lovely in their own way.  Soon a bluestone patio will replace the cement, and here's the thing.  As I look out to this work in progress, it occurs to me that the same way those long ago farmers left their mark, through this skilled artisan, we’re leaving our mark, too.  The house may go, but perhaps the walls will stay.  Stone as witness—to what is, and what will  come.  Perhaps some day, long into the future, our walls will tell a little of our story, long after we cease to be.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Snippet

In the middle of February, when we were surrounded by towering snow banks and the weatherman predicted yet another storm to add to our record breaking winter, it was hard to imagine summer would ever arrive.  Long after the snow melted, I longed for snippets, moments when I could take a deep breath and say, “Yes.  This is what I’ve been waiting for.”  I confess, circumstances conspired to get me off to a slow start, but here is one. 

My husband, on vacation Friday, suggested we go out to lunch when I got off work at noon.  The morning had been grey after an overnight rain, but a smidgen of sun offered  hope. We drove toward one of our regular haunts until, spur-of-the- moment, we decided to try something new—a brew pub on the bay, one town over we’d heard of for years, but never tried. The sun broke all the way through the clouds by the time we arrived.  The seats on the outdoor patio were dry.   

Deep breath taken.  Friday afternoon.  A pint of beer, and an order of fish tacos overlooking the Boston Harbor Islands. 
Yep, we’ll be back.

Monday, July 6, 2015


Our land is shaped by tall ledge.  One big step, a careful scramble over a couple of rock-formed stairs and I make it to one of my favorite spots—a plateau of sorts, where I sit, eye-to-petal with pink foxgloves and lacy Jacob’s Ladder, looking down over the rest of the garden.  The climb takes just enough effort to force me to stay for a while, to take a time-out while contemplating the yellow, purples and pinks below me, the day’s plans, whatever. 
I’m not a careful gardener.  Most of what blooms came to me as cast-offs, divided and offered by friends, or discovered while visiting spring garden sales.  I tuck plants in where I think they’ll look good, then dig them up and plug them elsewhere when it turns out I’m wrong. One plant made its way home with me just because of its name.  My husband and I went to the same college. Our team name was the “Purple Knights,” so when I encountered a purple-leaved Alternanthera - aka, "Purple Knight," I acquired it. Wish I'd done a little research there. Those darn things are so invasive we have to pry them out from between our patio cracks. Foxgloves seed themselves wherever they choose, and since they grow as tall as me, I spend time each spring moving them to the back of the garden.

Work and positioning aside, I love my little rockery and on the mornings I get to drink coffee out there, I focus on the experience, cognizant that it’s one I wait for all the rest of the year.  I’ve stared down chipmunks up there and sat frozen while a hummingbird levitated less than six inches away. Sitting on rock, I close my eyes and listen to squirrels chittering overhead, a mama robin cheerio-ing from the bushes behind me, and always, the drone of bees.  Blossoms sway as yellow jackets and bumble bees trundle their way into bell-flowers and sun drops, but, on Sunday, tiny bees I didn’t recognize flitted over the Jacob’s Ladder gone to seed.  Sipping my coffee, I remembered a piece I read in the local paper about a man in town who has begun raising honey bees.  According to the article, they travel more than a mile from their hives in search of pollen.

I drained my cup, satisfied at the thought of a swarm of bees climbing through my bee-balm, my balloon flowers, the bounty of my garden mixing with others as they make their way home. 

Sometime in the near future, a bee-farmer will harvest honey with one-of-a-kind taste, a tiny nuance of which, might have come from me.

Skip the table and chairs, I sit right in the garden, on a "seat" just in front of the stone wall.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Weak Link - IWSG July 2015

The last few months have been mush, but sometime, back in May…April? I attended a writing workshop led by novelist Randy SusanMeyers.  I learned or relearned lots of valuable information during that session, but here’s the most important thing I took away. 

Spend at least a little time with your manuscript daily.

That hit me soundly because, for the last few months, I’ve been visiting my manuscript intermittently.  I forgive myself, because there was a significant distraction, but as I try to get back into a regular rhythm, the bond is not there.  It’s a first draft. I still have about fifty-thousand words to go, and the only way I could connect myself to the story again was to reread what I’d written so far.  That’s a dangerous practice. One I don’t recommend. Rereading before finishing is a great way to get bogged down in the crud of a first draft.    Another stellar teacher, Lynne Griffin taught me this.

The only thing you have to do with a first draft is finish it.

But, this time I made an exception.  I’d forgotten so much about my story I had to. By not focusing on it, I’ve…lost focus.  So this past week, I opened it up and read it with no editing.  Next, I’ll try to hold myself accountable to visiting it every day.

Fingers crossed.  Perhaps in late fall, I’ll write another IWSG post and announce this.

Draft complete.

What do you do to stay connected to your story?