Sunday, March 29, 2009



March is bare and muddy in Maine but I love it nonetheless. The colors suit me down to the ground, no pun intended. Ochre, spruce and cedar green, gray, the off-white of melting snow, dark red underbrush, blue sky. The first crocuses are open and the daffodils are up about an inch. Ryan and I have been boiling maple sap this month, something new for us. It's been a learning experience and another case of "next year we'll be a little better at it" - like the foraging and canning we did last fall. Despite some trial and error, we still ended up with a few half-pints of maple syrup with very different tastes, the first batch a bit woodsmoky, which I like, and the second a more straightforward classic syrup taste. Either way, we could eat it all with spoons, today, it's so good. If we were gluttons, that is. Instead I've been having it over my oatmeal in the mornings. And on our anniversary last weekend we had a pancake breakfast, with Maine wild blueberries from the organic farm up the road and our own syrup, not bad.

After keeping a little wood fire going outside all day, on a few different warmish days this month, we finished up the project by reading Noel Perrin's book Amateur Sugar Maker (University Press of New England 1972) aloud, over two consecutive evenings - I think I mentioned that we found a nice copy at a library sale this winter. All in all, a real pleasure, with some sweet leftovers. Next year will be even better because we'll actually know what we're doing.

Speaking of boiling pots, a good friend of mine 'fessed up recently to reading romance novels - the real bodice-rippers - and she was actually embarrassed, even though told me she was reading them because she'd simply had it with depressing heavy fiction. Now, potboilers have a long and varied history, and there's no shame in reading them, as I told her. Doesn't everyone have their own relaxation reading, their escapism, their particular brand of pure bookish enjoyment? I told her my Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart novels (in hardcover!) were something I used to be a little nervous about having "out" (for whom to see...? who would care...?), but now they reside on my bookshelves at eye-level, a spot of prime importance in my general shelving scheme. Because I really do love them, and I re-read them every two or three years, and I don't care who knows it. When I think of potboilers, I always think of Christopher Morley and his beloved detective novels. Not my cup of tea, but to each their own. Smoky or sweet.

Sorry for the dearth of posts this month. I've bought very few new (old) books, and most everything I'm reading is a re-read. I just finished Elizabeth David's journalism collection An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (Viking 1985) and am moving slowly through T.E. Lawrence's Selected Letters (Norton 1989). I'm also halfway through the Qur'an, but that's a long story for another day.

In another week I'll be in Boston. I'm tagging along while Ryan attends a conference for work, and I'm really looking forward to seeing some great art, the Venetian show at the MFA in particular - oh how I love Veronese - and perhaps even visiting a bookshop or two. Ryan is not running the Boston Marathon this year so this will most likely be our only spring trip. Which is fine with me - a bit of the city is all I need. Then gladly back home to ragged old Maine.

Hi Sarah

March is a great awakening.
Here, lots of white mountains, with greenery taking over in the fields.

Read some great stuff (in a personal way) in Morley's FIFTH BUS AVE.

Was thunderstruck by THUNDER IN THE LEFT.
Hello Antony, good to hear from you - a bit more greenery to report here, one of my patches of chives is already showing signs of life, in the garden. I could clip them for an omelette but they look so hopeful and new, I'd feel too bad. You should see me weeding - apologizing as I go along...

"Thunder on the Left" is such a strange and haunting book, a ghost story in the best sense. The story makes my skin prickle as I read along. I love "Fifth Avenue Bus" as well - a lot to choose from in there. Good to hear you are reading. Thanks for checking in.

This morning I heard from another friend/bookseller who chooses to remain nameless - his classic potboilers of choice are Louis L'Amour westerns. No shame in that.
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