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Showing posts from 2014

Show this wicked town something beautiful and new.

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I've reached the point where it feels like I do nothing but process things (paper, assignments, grades, words, ideas, references, editing marks, aesthetic philosophies, fears, egos, and dreams of the future, to name a few) for students. I may not actually be a human being myself. David does most of the cooking, I have a cursory relationship to my own children, I do not exercise, and I do not write. I do however watch the morning sky. That is something I do.


More than a week ago, I drove to school a bit late. It was nearly 7:30 and dawn was in full gear. Something about the post-rainstorm atmosphere made the sky a vibrant coral pink in every direction. I have never seen a sky like this before. The whole of the world glowed with this strange liquid light. It was like being inside a shell, the nacre alight with the filtered fire of the sun. When I got to school, swim practice was in full gear, the pool enclosure a glass cube of freakish aqua green within the orangey-pink air.

The nex…

Comforters, philosophers, and lifelong mates!

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Just a little check in to let you know I still live and there are still pretty objects.


I went last night to see preview night of the chamber-sized production of Les Mis at a certain local theater. I've never seen this show before but I am familiar with the music. I spent a week or two in the summer of 1988 in between living in Atlanta and New York, hanging out at my friend Andrea's apartment listening and sometimes crazily dancing to songs from the cast album, along with my other bestie Brian. It was a funny soundtrack for us to have, not something I would have guessed this trio to gravitate toward. Brian and I were both theater geeks, but not so much musicals. I'm not sure what else I was listening to then. Varieties of punk & new wave, with some Patsy Cline and Billie Holiday thrown in. Andrea had been one of my punk rock mentors, but by this time she was more of a witch than a punk, and I'm not sure what else she was listening to. I feel like we also had the De…

Welcome to Fairyland

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The kids and I, along with cousin A, made some improvements to the space behind the cabin in Maine this year.












Reading: Bean Trees and David's new script

Writing: No but I saw a very good writer friend, who is also my doppel-g. I love her and miss her and would love to spend hours talking with her about writing and reading and teaching and cooking and walking and being. Instead, we had a whirlwind family traipse through Salem, MA.

Dinner: My doppel-g took us for cocktails and beautiful seafood in Salem. The cocktail was a Ginger: gin and cucumber and ginger beer. To eat, I had the hake marsala.

Soundtrack: Iggy Pop in the cafe where we lunched. Not in person, on the radio.

Random thing: We spent the afternoon in the Peabody Essex Museum, where we saw many wonderful things, including an entire 18th-century Chinese house. My favorite things, though, were the bower bird painting by MJ Mcconnell (there's a Frontline doc about her) and the video of a living room slowly filling with anima…

Bird Report

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Last night before Wine Hour I was resting on the couch on the porch and listening to the birds. There was something making a high twittery, churring sound nearby, so high pitched it was almost out of hearing range. A couple of somethings by the sound of it. I couldn't tell if it was coming from the oak tree off to my right or from the tangle of lilacs, apple trees, scrubby bushes and pines over across the drive. I thought maybe it was hummingbirds. The other evening a green hummingbird darted out of the the oak tree and hung in front of the porch inspecting us for 10-20 seconds before making a curlicue dance and darting off towards the lilacs. Finally I got up to investigate and found that the big fluffy orange cat from the big house was also prowling around our yard. I determined the sound was coming from the somewhere in the lilacs and just as my father in law came out of the house and asked me what I was doing, a pair of cedar wax wings leapt up out of the brush and lighted on…

Reflection is a Flower of the Mind

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We marked the end of our first week on the cove taking David's brother's family down the coast to the big city so they could catch an early flight the next morning. I got all dressed up and wore sparkly shoes. There were proudly gender bending youth holding hands on the sidewalk while an osprey cruised overhead. Outside the place we had dinner, a tattooed, bearded guy in a trucker's hat sipped beer from a can while my niece pet his Dachsund named Zelda.


One of the things I really like about my brother in law is that the two things he is most interested in exploring in a new city are food and the art museum. At the PMA we found a special exhibit of paintings by Richard Estes, a photorealist of whom I was vaguely aware. His cityscapes are full of reflective panes of glass and strange angles that allow the viewer to see inside and outside buildings and beyond the frame of the paintings. And he uses random juxtapositions of signs and advertising and other word-bearing objects…

You'll Always Know Your Pal

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Yesterday we arrived in Maine. One of the things I like most about traveling is the opportunity for unexpected moments with random strangers. This can happen at home of course, but the odds are better on the road.

Somewhere between Erie and Buffalo we stopped for coffee and car snacks. I stood at a bank of coffee pots along the side of the raised box where the cashiers stand and poured myself some "bold" roast coffee, but I couldn't see anything to put in it. David had already gotten his so I called back over my shoulder, "Where's the cream?" He was involved in some important junk food negotiation with the kids and didn't answer right away. "David, where's the cream?" I asked again.

The woman behind the counter gave me an odd look and said, "It's behind you." A second later David chimed in and said, "It's over here."

I shrugged at the woman and apologized. "I was trying to ask him," I explained. "…

Miscellany, with mink

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I'm plagued with the sense that the summer is passing me by, which morphs into one big existential cliche that bores me too much to elaborate. Regular readers will notice that I have not been blogging at all, which could contribute to this syndrome -- not catching the quick silvery moments, and so on. This is not for lack of thinking about what I would write if I were writing here, but thinking is not writing. Rather than reconstruct weeks worth of observations and interesting bits, let me tell you about the nowish things, a few of them.

I dropped Z at a friend's house this morning and stopped for a bit to chat in the kitchen, which always amazes me with its beautiful, oddball Americana decor, complete with vintage signs and green milk glass (maybe jadeite?) tea cups. Today I noticed a collection of vintage orange juicers, each with its own unique juice glass underneath. I love this. I will try to divert myself from the wish that I could maintain a house like that by expressi…

Wandering in the Chiricahuas

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I've been trying to spend writing time out of the house.

Wednesday I made my office in a local coffee house. At the gas station across the street, a woman in an old fashioned cinch-waisted black and white dress and pumps cleaned her windshield. The guy who runs the gas station came over and took over from her, so she stood back by the driver's door and talked to him while he washed the glass with big arching strokes. I could tell he was following the edge of the arc of the wiper blades, getting that line that forms and making sure the whole pane was uniformly clean. Every few passes over the window, he would pause to wipe the squeegee off on his pants in big, loose-limbed motions.

Thursday I sat in the atrium at the art museum. I was amused to see a woman in yoga clothes clutching an ill-rolled yoga mat on her way into the current Yoga: The Art of Transformation exhibit.

Reading: Read a review article called "Ghosts in the Stacks" by Christine Smallwood from a recent…

Jocund day stands tiptoe

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I'm trying not to lament that I have finally gotten my groove now that it is nearly time to leave the beach. I spent the first several nights here up late, mostly to spend time with my sister, who is a night person, including the night Z and I both stayed up so my sister could bleach streaks into Z's hair. These are vacation things. These are good. But I not a night person any more. The morning holds much more mystery and allure for me. Waking late, often second only to my sister, has been disorienting and slightly dissatisfying to me. Yesterday I managed to be up at dawn. This morning even slightly earlier. I am at peace.

Being up that early meant I got to do a little yoga and hold my baby nephew and chat with my mom, all before watching the rise of the hot pink orb of the sun and the multicolored lightening of the sky behind the layers and layers of  clouds until it felt for a moment as though I was floating inside a Monet painting. After the sky resolved itself into grey a…

My heroine

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It was the afternoon of the second full day on Topsail. We had had plenty of beach time, plenty of World Cup viewing, plenty of deck sitting, reading, idle shopping, late night conversations and so on. I was boogie boarding in the surf with Z&O and David. The tide was almost high. The waves were getting bigger.

It went in cycles: several big, gentle surges, followed by a couple small breaks, and then the ocean would pull back and back building up energy for a series of three or four tall curls. We would race each other to catch the wave, usually hitting it too early, lifted by the surge but left behind as the racing edge swept ahead. Every once in a while timing it just right, balancing just on the crest, born aloft by foam, speeding towards the beach. "Did you see how far I got?!" we would yell at each other.

And sometimes trying to grab it too late, watching, watching as the wave reared up and the lip started to curl over, jumping to grab it, but caught underneath, ta…

Future Sightings

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There's nothing like an afternoon in the sunshine watching your daughter play soccer with her stuffed gorilla on the sidelines dressed up as the team mascot in a spare uniform to make you know it is really spring, even if the wind is cold enough that your hands ache for an hour afterwards.

Reading: Chapters for writers group. I'm happy to say it was the first time in a while that reading someone else's pages has made me eager to get back to mine.

Writing: Nope.

Dinner: At writer's group, cheese and salami and Lebanese green beans. When I got home, the salad and corn and part of a corn dog that was waiting for me. I probably could have made do with only one of these, but they were both so lovingly prepared.

Soundtrack: In the kitchen, dancing with Z's arms wrapped around me, her cheek pressed into my back between my shoulder blades, to "CC Rider" by Old Crow Medicine Show. She swayed with me and held me tight and we danced for far longer than if it were jus…

A new place to dwell

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For the first time in a long time, I am actively part of putting on a play, a play I wrote, and it is very, very gratifying. There's other stuff I've written in the past whatever length of time that I've handed over and not been a big part of putting on stage, and that's fine too, but I'm reconnecting to why I loved theater in the first place. The collaborative building of art is a grand thing, and Talespinner does it particularly well. Rehearsals kick off with presentations by all the creative and acting company members on their take, whatever it may be, of the script. So much great stuff flying around, and as the writer it is so satisfying to hear people really getting what I was doing when I wrote it. I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Reading: I got a book of Japanese children's stories illustrated by Yoshisuke Kurosaki to show at presentations. When I was writing the script, I went looking for these illustrations. They were in my mind somewhe…

This must be the place

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When I got home from jury duty, I took an evening constitutional. It's part of my new "move your body every day" campaign and a celebration of the bright sunshine.

It's been a long winter. I haven't been out in my neighborhood much in many months. I love my neighborhood. I love the houses. I love the flower beds - the kempt and the unkempt - which are just now beginning to intimate greenness and growth. I love the big, tall maple trees. I love that these are the streets on which my children have learned to ride bikes.

More than any place else in my life, this neighborhood is home. And most of all I love the people here. Old people, young people, artists, working class folks, young doctors, retirees, pinko lawyers. Families with young children, people who have spent their whole lives here. Straight people, gay people. All colors and religions. Even a Republican. Some of us know each other well-ish. Many keep more to themselves. Both are good. This is a truly dive…

A Good Lie-In

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Like "scheme" in the sense of plan or system, and ordering drinks "for the interval," the term "lie-in" is a great Britishism I think Americans should adopt. Sure, we all sleep in on weekends, at least the adolescents among us, but we don't have a term for it. "Sleeping in" is an action. A "lie-in" is an event.

So, we had one this morning, a lie-in, and a good one at that. A long lazy morning for everyone in the house. O eventually woke and came in to cozy up in our bed. Z slept and slept and then spent some quite alone time in her room. The cats even got frustrated with us we were all so lazy. David eventually got up to make breakfast, O and I stayed in bed to read and write. Z watched a tv show. It was just as it should be.

Reading: A friend's poetry manuscript, to give feedback.

Writing: Yes, but very slowly and with frustration.

Dinner: I sauteed some bok choy with lots of garlic. I ate it before writers group with some left…

A World with Pyramids

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It's been a busy few days here in Magpieland. I keep trying to write a post that sums it all up, and I keep hating it. Let's try this:

Thursday was the thirteenth birthday of the son we never had. Calvin would be a teenager now. We always go to the cemetery. This year we took 13 orange daisies, a blue pinwheel, a Lego cop, and a small bag of Doritos.

I was really happy on Friday night to see Ali Garrigan sing the Jesus out of songs she had cowritten with Dennis Yurich in Titus.

On Saturday, partly to prove to a friend that our family has "narrative to spare," we went with her and her son to see the family shorts program at the film festival then stayed an got in on standby to the totally delightful Uruguayan film Anina, based on a book called Anina Yatay Salas, which I hope will someday be available in English.

I finally stopped into the new(ish) Guide to Kulchur book/zine/typewriter repair/poetry happening shop on W 65th. Got a GtK quarterly and a book of essays by…

The outer edges of my brain

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David reminded me, "It's a reflection, not an essay," but this blog is really a random assemblage of links that give something of a map of the outer edges of my brain yesterday. The inner parts of my brain were actually assembling and creating story stuff, which was then alternately ignored and inspected by my editor:



March 20 is a big day in our house. It is Calvin's Day, when we celebrate the presence in absence of our son. I did not know that the UN had also declared it an International Day of Happiness until I was standing in line at the store with a cart full of food and flowers for our March 20 feast and trip to the cemetery and spied it on the cover of a magazine.

Apparently United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.” So it feels painfully ironic that also this week, a new report from a large mainstream scientific society is out trying to get pe…

I'm me but not me.

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I'm on spring break, doing all things valorous. You know, like blogging.

We moved bedrooms last fall. I am still unpacking my boxes of books and papers. Yesterday I spent some time doing this because I was desperately searching for a book I need to write the thing I'm writing.

I have too many papers - multiple rough drafts of things, invitations to parties that happened 3 years ago, copies of grading rubrics for student papers the writers of which are in grad school now. My recycling bundle will be large this week.

But I also have interesting things - a permission slip I wrote myself to be fabulous, a love note from David, a handmade card from a much younger Z that has multi-colored raindrops crayoned all over it with inkstamped hearts in the middle of each one. And journals. I have decades worth of journals. Mostly, I think, they are full of whining about what I am not accomplishing or what about myself I am most neurotic about at the moment. But yesterday, I blindly opened …

Notes from airportland

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A corvid every day

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This beautiful creature is "Wisdom Seeker" cast bronze by Tony Angell found randomly in the WAshington State Convention Center. Nice corvid sighting!
If you are participating in a panel or other information exchange type of event, unless you are actually reading from the text of a story or poem, which by its very nature depends on an exact sequence of language, please do not simply read from a paper you wrote without looking up, and especially do not read from a computer screen containing the paper you wrote. I know you might be nervous or you might worry that you will forget something or you like the way you put written sentences together. I don't care. Don't do it. Write the paper, fine. But use it as a prop not a shield. Make eye contact with your audience. Vary your tone. Simplify your long convoluted sentences. Also, do not put the exact text of what you are saying on a projector for me to read along with you. This actually distances me from you even more. You do…