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Apr. 2nd, 2012



Snow lightly fell soon after I learned about the death of my friend. I rescued some daffodils, broke some quince branches, which opened for me in warm water.

Peg was a wonderful mom, nursery school teacher, and writer. Here she is with me, Ellen, and Jo (I'm sorry you'll have to click on the picture to see Jo!)  in November, taking a break from scribbling rather furiously on her yellow pad. She asked someone passing by the big wooden table we claimed in Greenfields Market to record the morning. Peg had patted her hair, and commented that being on chemo, she’d decided not to have it permed. “A waste of money, if it’s going to fall out.” She enjoyed her silver curls, but she was practical. She loved to laugh, and she faced facts.

We called her Peg or Peggy, but on her book jackets she was Marguerite W. DavolI love the language in her picture books such as Batwings and the Curtain of Night, the joy of The Paper Dragon, and Black White, Just Right, a sort of love letter to her grandchildren.

Maybe what I most miss and what I’ll always have is the belief we had in each other, which all my good writer friends – many of whom I know here, online -- share. Those car trips, book fair tables, writing dates in Greenfields or Esselon were marked by celebration, complaints, and a little gossip among the work. Most importantly, we knew that whatever we said might be met with a laugh or a hug or concerned look, but always, always with conviction that we’d keep going on.  No matter what, we’d write what we dreamed of writing. What a gift. Thank you, Peg. 

Nov. 4th, 2011


Goodbye October, Hello, November

I’m back to my blog, after visiting my daughter to make carrot soup and raspberry muffins and do some ferrying, surviving L.A. traffic. I loved her map to Jamba Juice: a perfect rectangle from her home to a corner, unlike the twisting roads in these parts, but for me it was adventure, with no harm done. I got to see Em’s and her roommate Colleen’s new apartment and meet their new dog and watch lots of movies while Em put on ice packs. On Saturday, Colleen, who works at Barnes and Noble, dressed up as Harry Potter for Story Hour, then came home with complaints of parents who thought their kids should focus on candy, not stories, and were aghast that if they wanted to bring home a book they needed to pay for it. Em and I did some shopping, going into a shoe store the size of a football field, where she still couldn’t find the silver sandals she wanted to complete her Captain America Halloween outfit. Generally it was a fun time to be in L.A., when I’d look around and wonder: is that a costume or  --not?

I got back just after the October Northeaster. No harm done at home, though we spent some time without and longer without Internet. I spent Wednesday afternoon among many wanting internet and outlets at Panera Bread, which I’d heard had been breadless the day before. As it was, all the soup was gone. I managed to read my students’ work and get it back, though it was hard to concentrate in the climate of people telling stories about what they’d been doing to stay warm.
Now, yay, for just dogs-with-an-eye-on-squirrel noises, the cat watching my elbow, drinking coffee Peter made me. Power. Internet. Sun, even if my view is of snow below trees with yellow and red leaves.

Oct. 11th, 2011


Change is Coming

The weekend was warm enough to write on the porch, which made it great. But I did think of leaves beyond, and called my friend, Jess, to see if she wanted to hike up a (small) mountain.
“How about next weekend?” she replied. “I’m writing with a Thursday deadline.”
When I told her I had plans for next weekend, she said, “Argh, I don’t know. Really I’m sitting before my computer not getting much done. Feeling it’s a holiday, everyone else is out doing things.”
“Want to come here and write together, then take a break on the mountain?”
Which is what we did, fueled by iced lattes Peter brought to the porch. Work got done and spirits raised. The view from the mountain was spectacular, though I didn’t bring my camera. Instead, here’s a spot that caught Peter’s and my eyes the day before.

In the evening I worked a bit on a new blog host at wordpress, which I hope doesn’t have the problems Livejournal has been posing these past months. The site’s coming along, and I’ll make a moving announcement soon, though I plan to keep this one going.  Where I’ve had so much fun and met so many great friends, who I hope will tag along. The house isn’t quite ready – who’s ever ready for change? -- but for a peek, and if you care to bookmark, go to the new Views from a Window Seat. Suggestions are welcome!

Jul. 3rd, 2011


July! Jama! At the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Swimming and picnic fare with friends is planned for Monday, but my weekend struck an epitome of celebration yesterday when Jama jamarattigan  and her husband took a break from visiting relatives to meet me and Peter at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  Little is more exciting than meeting in person someone you’ve come to know and adore on their blog. Jama is as sweet and funny as you’d guess from Alphabet Soup.

We saw the Tomi Ungerer exhibit  with lots of art from the Mellops, a pig family, and Jama was won over by the mother carrying a cake almost as tall as she was. There was also a bat chasing a moth with a net, crocodiles, boa constrictors, a flying kangaroo, and an octopus playing checkers and the piano. Most were drawn with delicate but assured lines, which I preferred to some of the bolder Ungerer pictures I’ve seen reprinted: of course these do look better reproduced small, and that’s why I, too, chose to put one here. Ungerer says, “If my books teach children anything, it’s to make fun of adults, especially those who are taking themselves too seriously.” Here's a recent New York Times interview.

He is a friend of Maurice Sendak, who I learned was also was an early encourager of Barbara McClintock, whose work often shares his fascination with stage design. One gallery featured art from what I believe was Barbara McClintock’s first book, Heartaches of a French Cat (David Godine, 1989) which someone told me took about eight years to write and draw. Certainly her labor shows in the elegant detail. She was inspired by a Balzac play to come home and create an 87 page sketchbook from memory, and the show displays the gesture drawings and photocopies she made to experiment with different color schemes. I love the sense of place and history in all her work, and how she credits some of this to growing up near grandparents who lived in an old Victorian house, which included her grandmother’s special collection of woman writers. Sigh of happiness. I hope that collection was passed down to her.

The third gallery was the one devoted to Eric Carle, which included artifacts going back to early childhood drawing and examples of the design work he did as a young man. We saw the cover of A Week with Willi Worm. Astute editor Ann Beneduce asked him to change the protagonist to a caterpillar, which became the Hungry, Hungry one we know, and offered the ending with a butterfly. There were also pages from other works, a display case with tools and examples of linoleum block prints, and a very green costume designed for a 2001 production of The Magic Flute.

After leaving the museum, Jama, our husbands, and I ate fat sandwiches and daintier carrot cupcakes at Barstow’s Longview Farm talking about life, writing, and hoping to set the ears burning of bloggers including Sara Lewis Holmes, Kelly  [info]kellyrfinemanJo [info]jbknowles and Jules of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast  as we marveled at their energy, wisdom, and kindness, while we enjoyed cool drinks, a warm breeze, and a view of the Holyoke Range, slow-shuffling cows, and Cornelius.

Now I’m drinking the delicious macadamia-cocontut tea Jama brought me via Hawaii, but already missing her smile. And hearing rain and thunder. That beautiful lake with wonderful friends may have to wait for another year, but my weekend feels pretty great. 

Jun. 30th, 2011



People around here, and that’s a pretty broad “here” taking in lots of New England, have had a lot to say about rain this spring, so I was happy that the long weekend my daughter got for a visit included some sun. Being from L.A., Emily was done with mostly gray days after one and  a half of them, and found it hard to believe that was our norm. I think she got the hint as we had lunch and did a few errands in Northampton, and strangers couldn’t help exclaiming over the sun that showed up. It felt like old days driving around with her and occasionally pulling out my laptop while she went off. She saw some old friends, visited her grandparents, got in some time with the dogs and her own old bed. So it was hard to leave that, but we made a family road trip to Maine, trying to pack into two days some of what we’ve eked out over two weeks in the past. There was the sound and smell of the ocean crashing on rocks, the vanishing pool at the Cliff House, shared fried clams, Moose Track ice cream, the J. Crew outlet, Harry Potter being read in the back seat, Oginquit and Kennebunkport, Maine and Portsmouth, N.H. street life and shops.

Now it’s laptop on the porch season. I still have a peaceful sense of Emily sleeping upstairs, though she’s back home, glad for a short work week following the short vacation. I’ve got a draft of a new work in the hands of my husband and writing group, so July will be devoted to some revision and wading into a new book set in a favorite time and place: Concord in the 1860s. I’m looking into kayaks on the Concord River and bike paths as my husband asks about my desire to see “buildings that aren’t there any more.” And some that are. So writing and summer fun may mix.

May. 23rd, 2011


Quiet Weekend

On Saturday, my husband and I caught some whiffs of lilacs on our way to Cottage Street Studios where workrooms were open for sales and artists were giving a percentage of their profits to Cancer Connection. We saw lots of paintings, handcrafted pots and plates, weaving, and jewelry. As we wandered, I thought back to my recent experiences at book festivals where I wonder how much I should interact with people passing my table. Do they want a bookstore-like experience, where they quietly make up their own minds from what they see on the jacket or page? I suppose they’d then be in bookstores. But if they want some interaction with the creator, how much is too much? How do you look helpful but not needy?

We appreciated people who welcomed us into their studios, and not a single person seemed pushy. In fact, most artists were more apt to look away than showcase, and clearly most expected that most visitors were there more to look than to buy. I expect I looked at art I liked a lot and art that didn’t particularly move me with the same expression, though I tried to offer warranted compliments if the artist was watching. We who sell our wares in public have to remember that just because people don’t look long or touch or buy doesn’t mean they aren’t intrigued.

We did come home with a lovely oil painting of a shell and stones by Barbara Johnson, who is not only brilliant at her work, but is both friendly and laid back. I hope you’ll click on the link to see more of her of portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and buildings.

Then we stopped at Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream, where one of the specials was Rose Cardamom. Like eating flowers in cream and also thumbs up on service, too: when Peter ordered a double dip, they asked which flavor should go on top. I raved enough that Peter ran back in to buy me the last quart to take home. Not the brilliant pink of the azaleas in the background, but perfectly faint, like the flavor.

There was some writing, some walking, some thinking about weeding, repotting geraniums, a college graduation gathering for a girl I knew since a baby – Congratulations, Rosa! I read poems by Mark Doty, which inspired a turn in one of mine, and Lucia Perillo, which inspired me to try harder to expand my scope, in the American Poetry Review. We watched The Last Station, with Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer, based on the end of Tolstoy’s life, which I liked a lot. Now it’s Monday morning and I’m writing on the window seat with nearby dogs resigned about the rain and a view of wet azaleas and lilies of the valley. Refreshed, inspired, creeping toward an end of a draft.

May. 9th, 2011


The Hudson Book Festival and a Thrilling Mother’s Day Surprise

I had a great day at the Hudson Book Festival selling some books and chatting a bit with other –there were a hundred! --authors and illustrators. I remembered to take a few photos. Here’s D. Dina Friedman, a member of my writing group and author of Escaping into the Night, a great novel about children hiding in a forest outside Poland during the Holocaust.

Susanna Reich, smiling through the day despite a leg injury, and Gary Golio also write about amazing people in history, with some emphasis on the arts.

Here are Katie Davis and Jerry Davis, another creative husband and wife, with their charming new book, Little Chicken’s Big Day. And peeps.

It was fun to see Kate Messner kmessner who we know writes beautifully about both history and contemporary life. I look forward to reading her latest for new readers, Marty McGuire.

Sarah Darer Littman writes with passion important novels for teens.

And here’s Ann Haywood Leal, who never fails to make me laugh, author of Also Known as Harper and other novels for middle readers.

It was a great day, capped by coming home and finding my daughter, who conspired with my husband to surprise me. You might have heard me scream (which Peter captured on video, which I posted on Facebook; if you’re not already my friend there, just send me a request). Emily and I had a wonderful time catching up, eating great food, stopping by at the grandparents, before Peter and I drove her to the airport in the wee hours so she could get back to work today. I’m one tired but happy mom.

Feb. 22nd, 2011


Feed the Birds

Just so family and friends in warmer climates don’t think we never have fun in snowy Massachusetts, here’s a picture Peter took of me feeding a bold chickadee. 

Feb. 20th, 2011


Crossing the Borders of Blogging: A Happy Afternoon

On a day when we New Englanders were celebrating slush, water dripping from frozen eaves, and air with a scent, what a thrill it was to meet Melodye newport2newport who’d left hummingbirds nesting among green leaves to attend to family needs in New England. She found it hard to understand why we were gushing about fifty degrees, and in fact it was snowing later that day, but she heroically drove over potholes and parked on an icy slope to meet me for lunch.

It’s wonderful to get to know people through their blogs, but what a treat to get a smile not far from yours, to hear real laughter bubble, and pour not-virtual vanilla and cardamom tea. I like turning a bit of life into words on a screen, and Melodye and I bonded over our commitment to taking our time choosing words, but what a joy to let words spill and scatter. Eating tomato soup and melted cheese over artichokes on toast, we mentioned some of the craziness that works its way into all lives, and things interesting and mundane as favorite kinds of tea. We could expand on some gritty edges or darker times, delve a bit into struggles and triumphs with craft. Tell a few secrets, like how I don’t understand much of Emily Dickinson, which made Melodye laugh. Whoops, now you know, too.

I’ll likely forget much of what we said on a shared window seat, but never my sense of great good fortune to have met across a few thousands miles for a conversation based on knowing each other’s written words, then shimmying between the lines, snuggling into some of the stories in the margins.

Dec. 22nd, 2010


Ho Ho Ho! or Do You Choose a Quiet Merry Hum?

There are still packages to wrap, cookies to bake, and pans to scrub, but yesterday I decided to get my nails done to mark a line between some of the hand-battering holiday prep and the fantasy of sitting and enjoying music, decorations, and tea with those cookies. While Shawna rubbed something creamy into my hands, she told me this will be her first Christmas with her boyfriend, who was getting introduced to her family’s traditions. The guy’s first clue that he was in for a ride might have been that she’s been watching a holiday movie every night. When he asked why she was making gingerbread and sugar cookies a bit obsessively, Shawna said, I can’t help it, which he should have gotten seeing the street where she lives by parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles houses all lit up like Vegas. She showed me the necklace he gave her last week, causing dirty looks from her the family (you're supposed to wait) such as those given to new girlfriends or wives who suggest that maybe names should be drawn for gifts. And when they drove to see her Grandma at a retirement place, they pulled up to a shared driveway, one apartment with an old wreath of autumn leaves, and the other festooned with brilliant colored lights and Santa. Which one is your Grandma’s, the boyfriend asked. Guess, she said. Which got even easier when a woman ran out in reindeer ears waving a bottle of Scotch.

We’re not quite that wild here, but between my husband and daughter, I’m the one with a quieter shade of the spirit. My husband gears up before Thanksgiving and couldn’t be more generous. Our daughter has a talent I envy for finding gifts perfect for their recipients. I’m just pretty good with the cookies. I love the wave of family and friends I don’t often see, but savor quiet parts of the day. I like feeding the dogs their usual breakfast on Christmas morning, setting out bread to rise, and maybe catching a few minutes of reading by the tree before the festivity begins. I like the broken memories shifting through the day, and angels with chipped wings made by my Grandmere (which my sister has let me keep custody of along with photo albums, rather than split them up: yeah, a shepherd and wiseman for you, but it gets touchy splitting up Mary and Joseph or deciding if you want the childhood or adolescent album).

It’s often moments by the kitchen sink or hanging up a coat, when some few precious words are exchanged, that touch me most. I like songs with lyrics I at least half-know, and trying to get through a poem without thinking of all the stuff I failed to do, and this year giving my grand-nephew a book I loved reading with my daughter: Who is Coming to our House written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolff.

Seeing circles start to come around.

Wishing you happy holidays, and quiet moments within.

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