Authorcosmicdriftwood

October 16, 2017: two things

In the last four weeks, two things of interest have occurred in my personal life. First, a three-foot-long milk snake appeared in my bedroom and vanished into a hole in the wall. No amount of coaxing would bring it back out.

Second, I spent a week in Hamburg, followed by a week in Amsterdam. In Germany we stayed in a posh hotel with a front desk staffed by people who addressed my husband by name when he approached with questions.

In Amsterdam, we stayed on a houseboat.

Still processing all the experiences. I’ll write more in the future. For now, the view from the houseboat window as a boat passed along the canal.

An island, gratitude

This is one of the landscapes I love most in the world.

I was born in Maine, though I only lived the first year of my life there. Not enough time to leave a conscious connection to the land. And I’m far from the only tourist to feel drawn to the waves stroking the granite coast, to wonder if perhaps life would be better there than it is at home, wherever home happens to be.

I love my home too. I love the wood frogs in the vernal pools, and the dead leaves strewn over the forest floor in the fall. I love the texture of the light in late summer, the sound of the insects continuing to call as the birds lose their colors and prepare to fly away. I love the stone walls, and the abandoned apple trees forgotten by all but the deer and the porcupines and the yellowjackets. My heart also belongs here.

Still, there is something in Maine that speaks to me in language I’ve heard nowhere else. It is the sound of the waves, yes, but also the sound of bare feet on stone, of wind through shortened coastal pines. It is the smell of rockweed when you lift it up to look for crabs when the tide is out, and the sound of a porpoise breathing just off the rocks where you sit.

We’ve returned to this island to hike year after year. There is a sense, now, that time has been folded and layered like a pastry for us. That around the corner of the trail, beyond my line of sight, Big Kid and Small One are running along, just six and three years old, while their seventeen and fourteen year old versions stroll beside me. We walk among the roots of the trees, and on the stone that pushes up through the soil everywhere. For someone like me, who makes her way through life with a mind that is never fully quiet, there is something magical in this stone. A kind of respite, an acknowledgment that the constant noise is actually temporary. That this stone will outlast me and everyone I love, that this stone can hear everything within me and simply absorb it into silence.

It is where I find peace.

At the risk of telling the same story twice, this is the island where I found a message in a bottle one year. It was a hard summer, and it was not a message I wanted to find, but one does not ignore those sealed bottles one finds left behind by the tide. It carried the story of a woman who had recently died of cancer after a late diagnosis and a relatively short illness. Please, the writer asked, please always remember that you can’t know what will happen in life and please live fully. For someone like me, someone who struggles constantly with the idea that there is nothing certain or safe in life, it felt like confirmation of my fears. It was very hard to read, and I thought perhaps it was meant for someone else to find.

There is a stone at the entrance to the trail. This is plaque on it:

I know nothing of J.T.’s story, beyond how short it was. I like to imagine that he had family who loved him, or friends, or both, and that they come to walk the island and think of him still, sixteen years later. I imagine that there are spaces between the loss now, where it is possible to walk and feel that love, not only the sorrow. I also think of him while there, of who he might have been. I’m in a different place than when I stopped for the bottle on the shore. I understand much more clearly how those bottles we find are, more often then not, a request for us to be witnesses to the lives of others. Please, the note might have said instead, please know that we did not have enough time, and that I wish more than anything that we could have had more. Please tell me her life will not be forgotten.

This year a dead seal lay at the end of the shoreline. The carcass had been there for days, I would guess, the smell discouraging any close examination. Small One studied it anyway, looking for clues to its demise. I focused on its teeth, large and doglike. We found a dead seal once on the Cape, a much fresher one. It had clearly been attacked by a shark. I touched a patch of its fur, so much softer than I could have imagined. This body, though, I had no desire to approach. It will take time for it to break down, but it will be thoroughly absorbed by the island by the time we visit next. Nothing but a few bones, perhaps. Maybe not even that.

We are here, until we are not. We are laughter and stubbed toes, deep breaths of salt air and skin chilled by cold water. We are starlight on the ocean, sunlight through the leaves. We are memories held by loved ones that will last no longer than those brief human lifespans. We’ve been taught that by grabbing, clutching, crushing, we will somehow extend our lives into something greater. It is a lie. We extend ourselves only the length of love, only the distance our connections can reach.

What we are is here. What we are is now. What we can become depends entirely on how we care for one another.

The things we do for love

This is how it begins: a text from Big Kid’s friend that the previous evening he saw something massive by the guardrail on the highway we live near. Not just something.

“He thinks it was a mountain lion,” Big Kid says.

Once upon a time, mountain lions were part of the New England landscape, just as they still are in the West. But colonists and their descendants did what they did throughout this country: they hunted, they killed. They eradicated. The last identified member of the eastern subspecies was shot in Maine in 1938. U.S. Fish and Wildlife announced them officially extinct in 2011, and removed them from the the endangered species list in 2015.

Definitive, right?

In 1997, DNA from scat found near a beaver kill at Quabbin was tested and proved to be from a mountain lion. In 2011, tracks found in the snow at Quabbin were verified by three independent trackers as being from a mountain lion. A few months later a young male was hit by a car and killed. His DNA revealed that he had begun life in South Dakota, 1,800 miles away. Those are the official reports. Around here, the number of people who claim an unofficial spotting is…not insignificant.

We used to have a game when I was a kid. Or less a game than a prize list for spotting various wildlife. At that time, bear and mountain lions shared the top slots. The reward for spotting either as we hiked with my parents was $50. The price made it clear that our chances were nonexistent. The estimated black bear population in the 1970s was down to roughly 100 members; mountain lions were unheard of.

There are now 4,000 or so bears living in Massachusetts. We see them several times a year. The same holds true with moose. My parents used to drive to upper New Hampshire to watch them. Now we have them living at the end of my street.

With the return of forest to Massachusetts, so too returned the forest dwellers. With protection and assistance, so too have returned the eagles and the loons. A gray wolf, a species that has been extinct in Massachusetts since the 1800s, was shot by a farmer an hour or so from here. DNA results suggested it came from wild stock, not captive.

For my family, there remains just one goal. We’ve seen the rest. Only the mountain lion torments us still. According to Massachusetts officials, our wait to spot one is likely only a half step up from watching the waters of Loch Ness daily in the hopes of sighting a fin. That doesn’t change our minds. We’re dedicated.

When the text came through, Small One already had her list of questions to ask. The first, the most important: was there a long tail? While waiting for the answer, we notified my dad. We found the measuring tape to pack. We debated bringing the casting material. We paced, watching the snow melt in the yard. If we wanted to find tracks, we needed to head out soon.

Finally, the answer came back. Yes, the long tail was the most notable thing, aside from the size. With that we’d knocked bobcat out of the running. While waiting for my dad to arrive, we gathered the few other details about location we could. A guard rail, a possible side road, an approximate distance.

I’m sick with a cold. We’re all sick, but Small One was buzzing with the thrill, so we headed off. I dropped my dad and Small One at one end of the stretch of road. I went back and started walking from the other end. Along a two lane highway. At what passes for rush hour here. I was painfully aware of the narrowness of the shoulder of the road as I examined the snow for tracks. Not just that–I was watching for the appearance of two people I love dearly, who I would willing walk along endless highways for, and who were…not visible at the meeting place.

I walked a bit faster. I hopped the guard rail and slid along the drop in the melting snow, happier with the idea I might fall into a marsh than into the path of a truck. The tracks I saw were few, and definitely not what we wanted. Then I found human tracks leading into the marsh, and heard my loved ones coming back up to the road.

The result of our time walking the highway? Coyote tracks. Bobcat tracks. Otter tracks. And, at the turn off the road and into the woods to head toward home, moose tracks. No mountain lion.

But you know, it really didn’t matter. Unlike Ahab, our (slightly) obsessive quest is built of love, not revenge. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I daydreamed of a female mountain lion lazing in the nearby rocks. I’m a lackadaisical tracker at best, but my child is a fierce one, as is her grandfather. They share a similar disdain for trails, a need to touch their fingers to the depressions made by pads in the mud, in the snow.

For me, though, the potential and the material are almost the same. I’m immensely grateful when I find signs of wild ones: tracks, scat, strands of hair caught on a fallen tree or a den mouth. At the same time, it’s enough for me to believe that maybe the big cats are traveling, that maybe some are already here. That the possibility of their presence was the gun on the mantle introduced in the first act of my life, and I’m promised its return before the end of the final act.

Both Small One and I were awake for long stretches of the night, nursing our colds. When we compared notes in the morning, we looked at one another, grinned. I said, “I know we’re both sick, but do you kind of feel like we should go out looking again today?”

(For a tiny bit more about mountain lions and the possibility of their return east, head here. For a lot more, specific to Massachusetts, contact me.)

How we become more

In a nearby town there was recently a fire. Fires happen far too often in our area in the winter. Many of us burn wood for heat. Many old houses (there are plenty around here) have questionable wiring. And fires these days often burn hot and fast, thanks to the flammability of the synthetic materials used in furnishings.

There were seven members of the family home in this fire. Only two made it out of the building. The mother and four children were lost.

Friends of ours were among the first firefighters to arrive from the small volunteer force in this small rural town. The truck arrived promptly, and there was still nothing they could do to get inside. The fire had moved that quickly.

This is not a post about tragedy, although that is what I think of every day. This is about community. This is about empathy. This is about what we still have, and what we are forgetting, and why it matters so much.

In my husband’s family, two parents have lost children. In my family, two of my aunts lost adult children. On the highway I commute on, I’ve come upon the aftermath of fatal accidents more than once. On a twisty back road I take down to town, I once spent fifteen minutes of a warm sunny day slowing traffic around a still young man and his fallen motorcycle.

This is part of being alive, that death is always there. It is, in fact, the only promise we have, and yet we pretend it isn’t. The woods and fields know better. In the winter, the track of a mouse scurries across the snow to a point where it vanishes, the imprint of owl wings left to either side. The scatterings of bluejay feathers among the leaf litter on the ground, the smell of decay in along the trail on a hot humid day—there is nothing to hide.

We have a beginning and an end, all of us.

In this small town where a father and child escaped from a fire into a future without so many loved ones, this is what has happened. Town members have gathered, in church, at the school, and they have mourned and comforted. The fire department has asked for help and hugs for the volunteers who are grappling with their inability to save a family, and they have received both. Funds are being raised for new clothes, new furnishings, food and housing. A living space has been found for father and child. Children are supported as they try to understand how death comes for the young and the loved, not just the mouse in the snow.

This is the best of us. This is what we are born to be to one another. The volunteers who run into a freezing night to try to save their neighbors, the families who give what they have to help one another. The people who recognize grief—their own, others—and open themselves to feel it, not to turn away. The potential for pain in this world is legion.

So is the potential for grace.

Compassion requires one giant step: to acknowledge that loss waits for us all. We do not protect ourselves by refusing to take it. We simply make it easier to become the people who do not care, who see suffering and step around it, mock it, incite it. To become people for whom community is simply a misspelling of commodity.

Last fall, my husband and I stopped to help a young woman broken down on the side of the highway. She was traveling to visit a friend, and something on the road had punctured her tire and caused a blowout. As is the case in much of our area, there was no cell service. She’d managed to contact her mother via a hotspot she had rigged, and while we changed her tire in the soft ground of the shoulder, I could hear her mother in the background. Are you with good people? Are you sure?

We stopped to help because she was young, and a woman, and alone, and because we wanted to protect her. Because I could hear the fear in her mother’s voice, and because mothers know that when we send our children into the world, we are dependent on good people being there for the times we are not. Because tragedy waits for us all, and because compassion is the truest thing we can offer. I have rescued many birds trapped in buildings. There is always a moment, as you open your hands to release them into the world, that they sit stunned for just a second, weightless in your palm, and then, when they fly, you can feel their freedom like your own. Seeing this woman drive away, I could feel the same.

When I have hope, it is not in things. It is not in political thought. It is in the moments when we recognize our constant vulnerability. When we step into the grief, instead of away. We are made to care for one another. When we do, we become so much more.

January 24, 2017: Resistance

For the scientists and others at the EPA and USDA who are being gagged by brutal and ignorant ideologues;

For the brilliant tweeter at Badlands National Park and their defiant tweets of climate change information which have since been deleted;

For all the scientists who know what is right, what is true, who have devoted their lives to mapping out the damage we are doing to Earth and trying to find ways to right it, and who now find themselves trying to preserve their careful, thorough work;

For every woman who is facing the loss of her reproductive rights under this misogynistic regime, and for every woman who is working to save those rights, and every man as well;

For every woman, child, man, human who are afraid today, tonight, every day, who feel powerless and unheard and unsafe as their rights are stripped and this country pushes toward timid compliance;

For this Earth and her inhabitants, who are being sold for cheap oil and cheap goods, sold to fill the pockets of those whose pockets are already overflowing;

For all of you, let us say now that we will not go gentle into this or any night. Know that history will remember your bravery, your resilience, with love, just as it will remember the vicious politicians and their hatred and rapacious hunger for destruction in the way all bullies are remembered: with despise.

Know that we will speak, sing, write, paint, march, shout, sit, stand, dream, and show up as hard as we can, for as long as it takes. Know that you are not alone. Know that we are We The People. The Valiant Beautiful Imperfect Impossible Eternal Loving People.

We are made of stars. We have danced in the fires of suns. We have known despair, but we have also known brilliance. Now is the time for us to remember our origins. Now is the time we link together, atoms joining to molecules, as we were made to do. Now is the time we say no to the lies of supremacists, of bankers, of the wealthy few who see we the many as currency, not humanity.

But even more important, now is the time we say yes to each other, to our world, to the essence of our stellar hearts.

We will resist, and we will win.

This old house

Dear Country, we are broken.

Do you feel that? Has the pain managed to travel all the pathways, however small, or are there still pockets that it hasn’t reached yet? For some of us, the nerve impulse hit in early in 2016, for some in November, for some it is cutting through now. For others it may take time yet for the depth of the damage to sink in.

The truth is that we have been this way for a long time, perhaps forever, but we’ve ignored the signals. We never fully saw through the things that we should have. We never worked to truly teach each other that without rights for all, all our rights can be lost. We allowed ourselves to be pulled apart, to become birds without flocks, fish without schools, and then accepted hate as something to hold us together, when the truth is that hate simply feeds on us and destroys everything.

Let me tell you a little something about being broken. It’s possible to pretend. It’s possible to live in a house whose supports have been cracked, whose foundation looks like Swiss cheese, and to hide it all, to leave every morning pretending your house is sound and you are fine. Nothing to see here, folks, just another normal, sturdy house. You can get used to it. You can act like nothing is wrong.

But every day you will wonder whether your house will still be standing when you reach home. And every night you will lie awake, listening to each creak, the fear eating away inside you until it devours your memories, your visions of the future, your dreams for everyone you care about. You can try to outpretend that fear, but your entire life will become the pretending. There will be nothing else left of you.

Dear Country, we’ve been pretending for far too long. We need to open up the doors, and the walls, and shine lights in all the corners, and then we need to work. Together. Because this is our house, and it was built for us so long ago, and every old house needs work. Some of this old house was built with love, but much was built with hate, and we need to pull out all of those pieces or the whole thing will collapse. No amount of pretending will stop that. It’s already happening.

I actually believe in you, Dear Country. My cynical, untrusting, anxious self actually has within it a perpetual engine of belief in you. In We The People. I wrote Devil And The Bluebird because I believe in you. In fact, the very act of writing at all, for me, comes from a place of belief in you.

I need to be more clear, though. I don’t believe in your acts of genocide. I don’t believe in racism, or sexism, or xenophobia, or environmental destruction, or the economic warfare that consolidates power in the hands of fewer and fewer people. I do not believe in white supremacy. I don’t believe in leaving children, the elderly, anyone, to suffer and die because they can’t afford healthcare.

I reject those materials as part of this house, and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. They need to come out.

So when I say I believe in you, Dear Country, what do I mean? Just this: I believe in the continuing potential within all of us. I believe in the capacity of each of us to love, to make choices out of compassion, to begin to see ourselves as tenants of this house together, this house of and by and for the people. I believe that we can all learn the carpentry needed to fix the structural issues, even the really challenging stuff. I believe that some of us may be good with hammers, and some with blueprints, and some with painting murals on the walls, and that that is the way we’ll get the work done.

I’ve started learning embroidery with a friend. This is my first project.
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It is a bird, of course. Not because I want to fly away, which I do—don’t ever imagine that the current state of our existence, Dear Country, hasn’t filled me with dread—but because “Hope” is the thing with feathers –. I’m working on it for both of us, Dear Country. And I’ll be with you in Washington D.C. this Saturday, where I’ll march because of my belief in you. And after that I’ll be pointing out the holes, and marking the cracked beams, and learning to use all the tools in my toolbox, and making coffee and cake for the people who can teach me, and I’ll be doing it because I believe in you. I believe We The People can turn this house into a home worthy of all our hopes.

Dear Country, I believe in the potential of you.

The dark, the light, what comes between

The other night, as we were driving home in the early dark, we came upon a dead moose. The action of the flashing police lights contrasted starkly with the stillness of the body. Long legs, glossy coat, motionlessness.

I wept.

That is what I do these days. I wake from dreams of hopelessness and fear, and I cry for a bit, until it is time to walk Rosie Dog. Then I get out of bed, not wanting to move, and we go for our walk, and I pull things together. It has been this way for the last month. It will continue.

This year the drought has pulled the water far back from the shores of the reservoir. It’s left the river that the landlocked salmon travel in the fall as nothing more than a trickle through sand. Bridges of land connect islands in place of moats of water. I can feel the drought in my bones, my flesh and the soil not so very different after a lifetime spent together.

Plenty of rain, and the reservoir will fill again. But damage exists in places we cannot see. Amphibian populations shrink due to missing breeding habitat and diseases their stressed bodies cannot fight off. Likewise, trees struggle silently, suffering in ways that play out over the years to come.

The things we lose do not come back. This world we treat so carelessly is made of finite substances. The cruelties we condone or enact on one another echo forward ceaselessly.

So do the kindnesses.

After the election, I tweeted something about my love for those who were suffering. I was promptly trolled by another writer flush with the victory of her candidate and looking to prove me a hypocrite. I have relatively few tools at my disposal in life. My anxiety is such that I am always battling imaginary monsters. It is an exhausting struggle that I have no confidence in winning. But I do actually love. I do care. Pessimism and optimism are twined so tightly inside me that I can carry endless despair over the horrors we commit toward one another and this world, while also holding the belief that we all have the capacity to be more. More generous, more compassionate, more courageous, more capable of learning, more open, more than fear and hunger and clawing our way through life.

This is the time of year when I comfort myself that the darkness is also finite, that light will come again and balance will be found. This year, the darkness stretches so much farther, and the light feels so much fainter. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps I have always been wrong is all I can think. What we lose now may be lost for good, be it endangered species or clean water or one another.

But if I’m going to err, it will be on the side of loving, of caring, of believing in the sliver of potential for more. Without that, we are nothing.

Farewell, Callie Dog

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Callie, you were the very best of dogs. From the moment we met you in a stranger’s kitchen in Springfield, and we sat on the floor as your owner said “she’s afraid of all men,” and you immediately climbed into Jon’s lap, we knew we all belonged together. For almost sixteen years you took your self-appointed job of puppy tender very seriously.

Thank you for all the kisses, all the wearing of hats while the kids took pictures, all the dog laughs, and all the LOVE. I have never met another dog as in love with life as you. Even as arthritis settled into your bad hips, as your kidneys struggled with the arthritis meds, as the heart issues diagnosed six years worsened, you still loved life.

Or maybe you just loved us that much. We certainly loved you. When we gathered around you today and told you that we would be okay, that you didn’t have to hold on for us, that we were so grateful for everything you had given us, none of us really wanted to let you go.

Callie Dog, there was a rainbow as you were making your final trip today, and a heron by the side of the road. We will miss you tonight and tomorrow, and for what feels like forever right now.

Thank you. We love you, now and always.

September 22, 2016

Greetings, dear ones.

Apparently there is a rule that one must never include dates on one’s blog posts, as they might betray inconsistency in one’s blogging. To which my only possible reply is huh. To be honest, this post started out as September 20, 2016 and, well, you can see how well that worked. I’m inconsistent, in so many things. For so many reasons, as well. But in my inconsistent way, I love this space, my little writer’s shack on the vast internet plains, so here I am again.

Shall I tell you a story? Not five months worth of story, just a day or two. Trust me, the five month version would be largely this: I took the back roads to avoid the road work, as I did every morning. At the halfway point I checked my time, then told the kids we’d be late again. They shrugged. I swore softly as traffic settled us on top of the bridge. Again. Yes, that thrilling.

Instead, this story starts with a trip to the Burlington Book Fest. Actually, it starts with an entire summer of almost no rain. We have been in drought conditions. Extreme drought, to be precise. The only worse category is exceptional drought, which is what California has been living through. Imagine day after day of spotless blue skies and sun. Now imagine brown grass and empty streambeds and ripe apples the size of walnuts. That’s how things have been. This is even worse than the year our well dried up (which led to this story). That drought ended the day they came to drill our new well. Literally. We had tons of drilling equipment in the backyard and it poured for days. By the time the new well was hitched up, the old one was bubbling merrily away.

That maybe should have been a clue to how our family long weekend was going to go. The original plan was to take a week and stay in the Lake Champlain area and hike. Then it shrank to a three day weekend. The day of the Book Fest–warm and lovely. The two days after? Rain predicted. The forecast for the coast–our second choice–much much more rain.

What we discovered is that we didn’t know anywhere that we wanted to go that wasn’t outside, but a outdoors day trip in the rain meant being wet all day. So we compromised. We headed west, where there would be less rain, and looked for places that we could be either indoors or out.

We ended up at The Mount. The Mount is the former home of Edith Wharton, and it’s the kind of little writing cottage you might create for yourself if you were drawing from three trust funds in 1902. You know the sort of place: forty-six rooms and garden walkways bordered by square trees a la Alice in Wonderland. (Yes, I’m aware that this is called topiary, but…SQUARE TREES.)

scaled-housescaled-garden

Somehow, despite being there on a possibly rainy Monday in mid-September, we found ourselves in the midst of the largest tour group ever. A group so large that we could not all fit in the palatial rooms of the house together. We scurried away on our own, reading the signs in each room. As we darted ahead of the zombie hoarde…er, tour group, I found myself feeling like something less than a writer. This is not a new problem, but the setting sharpened the focus. After all, I haven’t written enough books to fill a library shelf or two, and may never. I do not have much literary fame. I don’t host frequent (any) salons, and the trees around my house are simply tree-shaped.

Also, my writing never takes place at desks, unlike it appears Edith Wharton’s did. However, my family found an informational panel which said that the photos of Edith Wharton writing at her desk were all staged. In fact, it continued, Edith Wharton wrote in her bed, with her dog under her elbow, and almost never at a desk. Score one point for real writerdom; subtract one for the constant lack of truth around the writing life.

(For the record, I write in bed for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that I do not have a desk. I could write on the couch, but the light coming in through the windows behind makes it challenging to see the screen. That room is the only non-bedroom workspace in the house, aside from the kitchen, of course, which is even less writing-friendly, and the bathroom, which would like nothing more than to steam my computer to death. In my dreams, I have a room with space for a comfortable chair, and some books, and me, computer in tow. It may not be forty-six rooms, with marble fireplaces in most of them, but it would still be bliss.)

After wandering the damp-but-no-longer-rained-on gardens, we left The Mount and headed to Chesterwood. I knew exceptionally little about Daniel Chester French prior to our visit, aside from the fact that he was the sculptor of this. Now I know…more. That he felt the small details were key to the work, for example, and therefore spent a great deal of time trying to get Lincoln’s hands just right.

The gardens at Chesterwood are decidedly simpler than those of The Mount. This year, the grounds are home to an exhibit called The Nature of Glass. As the name suggests, the pieces use glass, some exclusively and some in combination with other materials. I love this fellow, made of glass and granite. I suspect I’m made of much the same.
cropped-fellow
(Sculpture by Thomas Scoon)

Sculptors use different workspaces than writers. The studio at Chesterwood includes doors several stories tall, with a bit of train track running under the floor and on outside. This could be used to move work in progress into a range of natural light throughout the day. High above the workspace is a bank of windows to let northern light in, and this was the light he typically worked in.

Which again brings me to writing. I’ve written very little this year. Let me clarify: I’ve written very little fiction this year. From a writing-as-a-business standpoint, this is a mistake. From a life-as-a-journey perspective, it’s exactly as it should be. I’ve been feeling as though the stories I want to tell don’t fit through standard household doors, and I’ve been trying so hard to understand how to make them fit. It’s been an embarrassingly long process to realize that maybe the answer is to change the doors.

There’s one last piece to mention. Along the walk in the woods at Chesterwood, there’s a small memorial. It’s a young child, carved in stone, lying beside a bunny. On the plaque below it says: Theresa Cunningham Loved This Place.

Just as I’ve struggled with the shape of what I want to write, I’ve also struggled with the why. This year, this country…they’ve eaten away at my soul, sometimes with a constant gnawing, sometimes in giant gulps. It’s been hard to write because the very act of writing stories can feel so pointless at times.

I took a picture of the memorial. I realized that it goes with the giant doors for me. Writers often tell the same story in many different ways, trying to find the truest way within. It may be a love of opera, or of revolution, or of family. It may not be love at all. This year has tempted me to write from any number of spots that seemed true, all in response to the world, but none of them have been mine. I’ve had to strip it all down, to try to find the spring that feeds my own writing, whether anyone reads it or not. The answer is a single, simple thing: Jennifer Mason-Black Loved This Place.

Be well. Be true.

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Bits of news

The really big news around here is that both Phoebe nests are occupied! With any luck, we will have a bumper crop of flycatchers this year. I suspect there will also be a bumper crop of Cooper’s hawks, given the close to constant presence of the adult hawks in our yard.

It’s mid May, and the lilacs are just blooming, and the leaves are finally getting bigger, and it has been COLD. So cold we only turned the heat off this week. The ticks have been fierce, which maybe wouldn’t be so bad if I would just stay on the roads, but it’s so much more fun to wander off trail.

When Coco Cat first came to live with us, the vet gave us strict instructions to only feed her wet food. We tried. We tried so very very hard. I’ve spent hours browsing cat foods in the pet food warehouse, trying to find some wet food she would eat. The answer seems to be that she simply won’t. On the bright side, I’m now familiar with a vast number of cat foods, if you’re ever in need of a recommendation. She spends 96% of the time sleeping, and the remaining 4% attacking anything that moves. Feet under a blanket, for example.

Callie Dog, on the other hand, is so old that her motto seems to be screw it. She doesn’t wait to see if we’re looking before getting on the couch, she just crawls on up. Something looks interesting to eat? Why not eat it? That particular track has been tough on her digestive tract, by the way. Last night we hopped in the car to run a short errand. She pushed her way out of the house to come too. Given that she’s roughly 100 in human years, we just go with it all. Except the eating anything part. We try to keep that to a minimum.

One small bit of book news. There was a really lovely review of it at NPR yesterday. As someone who grew up listening to a LOT of NPR, I have to say that seeing my book come up on their site was something of a thrill.

Enjoy the spring, dear ones.

Red Trilliums

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