Saturday, December 31, 2011


Until we meet again

Here comes another New Year's Eve. We usually opt for a quiet evening in, and this time around is no exception. I have no specific resolutions this year, other than the usual wordless hopes that seem to gather around me like friendly ghosts whenever I ponder my general situation and choices in life. This past year I think I've been so good I can hardly stand it. What else could I work on, or improve - physically, spiritually, morally? (Everything?? Again???) That seems like the kind of question, and the kind of pressure, I just don't need right now. I tell myself that I'm already doing what I am able to, and as long as I can, I will continue to do so. In short, I will remain as resolute as I always have been. So that's it then?

Well. Of course there's always something, though, isn't there, some lingering unfulfilled desire that continues to nudge at one until one takes action. I do have one specific wish, I won't call it a resolution, and I hope during the year ahead I will discover in myself the willpower to bring it to fruition: the completion of my memoir about reading, books, and the bookshop. I have a manuscript. It is five years old, flawed, and has no story, no plot to speak of. I need to add to it, rearrange it, and create closure. I know I have it in me to get this done to my own satisfaction, no matter what happens with it after that.

With this in mind, I will be taking a break from blogging for a while. Part of the fresh start that the New Year brings should always involve letting oneself off the hook, I feel, and any writing I do this winter I hope will be with a pen, on paper, with the goal of finishing this manuscript firmly in mind. If I pull this off, you'll be among the first to know. I'll be back, of course, if I have any noteworthy news. I have many other book ideas, also languishing, and am still painting, keeping my diaries, and buying and selling old books. Life goes on and for the umpteenth time I worry that my best ideas will remain merely ideas. Less than helpful, I realize, so I am going to attempt to concentrate on one page at a time and see what happens.

But as I cast around for ways to bring my bookish memoir around the bases to the general vicinity of home plate, naturally I want to postpone any actual writing, by reading instead. I just finished this, and found it very helpful:

The Autobiographer's Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir
edited by Jennifer Traig, introduction by Dave Eggers (Holt 2008). It's full of timely advice and heartening encouragement from the likes of Elizabeth Gilbert, Sean Wilsey, Tobias Wolff, Nick Hornby, et al - concrete suggestions on how to get it down, in whatever form best suits your story. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It has almost convinced me that I can finish writing this damn book of mine, the one I want to be the first of many, god willing. If you are considering buying a copy of the above, please get it directly from 826 National, so your purchase will directly benefit this great group of tutoring and writing centers. And then listen to Dave Eggers's TED talk about how these centers came to be. Inspiring is often an overused word, but not by me, and so I use it here.

In conclusion - Happy New Year. Blessings on the year ahead. Let's welcome the slow but certain return of brighter days. Final words for a while, from a note in the fine book A Woman on Paper: Georgia O'Keeffe - The Letters and Memoirs of a Legendary Friendship by Anita Pollitzer (Simon & Schuster 1988), quoting Alfred Stieglitz as he writes to Hart Crane (p.252):

"We are all after Light. So let us seek it together in an unsentimental spirit."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


holiday hilarity

Thanksgiving morning, after eight-plus inches of snow fell the day before, there I was, letting the white stuff spill over into my boot-tops while attempting to find the garden. I was determined to add something fresh and grown on our own acre to the meal, and I knew those chives were just the thing! But where were they?

Right around here somewhere! I just know it! Ryan and I were chuckling uncontrollably... caption: Intrepid Maine Woman Successfully Extends Growing Season on Saltwater Farm.

There they are - it's been such a sunny warm fall around here that until this sudden big snow, they were enjoying another rampant growth spurt.

I picked a few handfuls in a rough-and-ready manner. This particular chive plant was a gift from a plantsman I know and love, and they are the sweetest, most onion-y chives I've ever tasted. They also seed themselves like crazy, so if anyone needs or wants any chives, for god's sake come visit this spring and I will dig you a clump. I used them with some sour cream as a dip for crudités. Along with my parents, my beloved aunt and uncle from Vermont joined us for dinner. Favorite appetizer: devils on horseback (bacon wrapped around prunes, baked in the oven - little bundles of sweet and salty wickedness). Favorite side dish: my aunt brought a traditional dish from her family Thanksgivings past, pears and parsnips, so delicious together.

After their lovely visit, onward to Christmas. This is also my birthday season (my middle name is Noël) and I so look forward to this introspective time of resetting priorities, reading long books, painting large paintings, and quietly celebrating the change of season. Winter is home, to me, and the real turning of my year. This past Sunday, we ventured once again out to the back acre, this time to a grove of balsams in the woods. Boots, coats, gloves, a handsaw, and a short walk through chickadee-laden underbrush, and there was our tree. It just barely fits in the living room. White lights or colored lights? We went with colored again this year, for their cheerfulness. While decorating, Ryan caught me in motion:

We always go outside and see what the lights look like from there. Isn't that one of the joys of this time of year - seeing all that warmth and magic coziness in your very own home, and in the homes of your neighbors? Hodge was wary at first but soon settled into his favorite spot:

From our home to yours, we wish you holidays of quietude, peace, and plenty. With a dash of hilarity now and again for good measure.

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