Saturday, August 30, 2014

I spent yesterday evening with a hundred fair exhibitors and their oversized cucumbers, knitted socks, quilts with fur-trapper themes, cribbage boards made from logs, strawberry jam, and photos of golden retrievers. This morning Tom (aka Photography Judge) heads off to sift through entries. Paul will be running a 5K, judging baked goods, and then selling hotdogs in the Patriarchs Food Booth; but I will be going to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for my entry in tomorrow's Maple Syrup Baking Contest. I'm submitting a maple pecan pie, which I fortuitously invented for Thanksgiving dinner last year. And because I also entered sunflowers and a mixed-vegetable arrangement into the exhibit hall, it's conceivable I could win, like, ten dollars.

To get ready for this busy day, I am sitting here at the kitchen table reading Linda Gray Sexton's novel Rituals, and it is awful. Let me just say: her mother's genius with a simile did not transmit down through the generations. Think Valley of the Dolls set among rich Harvard girls in the 70s, the kind of chicks you find blotto at the Ritz and smoking Thai stick by the family pool. You get the idea.

Friday, August 29, 2014

In my newfound solitude, I managed to crank out many pages of uranium editing, finish the syllabus for next weekend's poetry retreat, and harvest all of my potato plants. What a relief.

So today, after another batch of editing, I get to go outside and decide what to show at the Harmony Fair exhibit hall. I'm thinking of sunflowers . . .

. . . and perhaps dahlias . . .

. . . and possibly pickling cucumbers, or yellow potatoes, or cherry tomatoes, or chard . . .

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Today is the first day of school. Tomorrow the Harmony Fair opens. In the meantime, I have a day to myself, the first in months--not that I will be writing poems or anything. But even though I will spend my hours editing and preparing for next week's workshop, I will be alone, and that fills its own craving.
When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.
Thank Wordsworth for that apropos description of my sensations. There's less ease in Emerson's remark: "Solitude, the safeguard of mediocrity, is to genius the stern friend." Still, I'd rather risk mediocrity than have to spend my morning nagging a kid to do his math homework.


In other news, here's today's uranium history update: "A guest editorial in the San Juan Record asserted that 'all that dust people complain about coming from the [uranium] mill' was being exaggerated and might actually be a positive outcome because 'dusting takes up our wives’ time . . . [and] keeps [them] in better physical condition.'"

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yesterday I mowed an enormous amount of lawn before 8 a.m. Today I get the mowing day off: just bread baking and laundry washing and boy driving and uranium-book editing. [Did you know that in the 1950s in the Colorado Plateau you could enter a Miss Atomic Energy pageant? Afterwards you could eat at the Uranium Cafe.]

This morning the corn is nine feet tall and the sunflowers are blooming riotously. I am thinking about poems and the ocean and the plunging hawk that almost bashed in the windshield of my new car. I am coaxing myself not to be cranky with my son, who did various aggravating 16-year-old boy things yesterday. Let bygones be bygones, I tell myself [but he'd better get that summer math packet finished and remember to charge his phone so that his mother doesn't have to spend 5 hours waiting for him and drive 80 miles out of her way].

On the bright side, I've just discovered that my sister is planning a 50th birthday party for me in October. And where will she be holding this party? In Franconia! A nine-person weekend at the Kinsman, beer at Schilling's, and finally a chance to show my boys Robert Frost's front porch. Also, finally a chance to hike at the Notch, which I've never done because I'm always working when I'm in the White Mountains. It will be lovely.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Today's temperature is supposed to approach 90 degrees. Why, all of a sudden, is Maine getting this heat? Apples are ripening, trees are turning, the light is shifting, and the weather feels like Philadelphia's. Ah, well: it's a last chance to wear my summer dresses and eat coconut popsicles three times a day.

This weekend I will be arranging vegetables at the Harmony Fair; next weekend I will be teaching on Star Island in New Hampshire; the following weekend my band plays at Pat's Pizza's Oktoberfest night in Dover-Foxcroft; and then I'll be heading to New York to read at the Verdi Square Festival of the Arts. That's a funny list of obligations, isn't it? In the meantime, I'll be editing and driving to soccer practice. You know: I haven't canned one single thing this summer . . . not a pickle, not a jar of jam. I have frozen a number of raspberries and a few green beans. I hope I'll eventually be doing tomatoes, but it's conceivable that I won't. And if I don't, this will be the first time in decades that I haven't loaded those basement shelves with winter produce. My life appears to be changing, incrementally but inexorably. I have become the kind of woman who might not can tomatoes. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Just yesterday Tom was chainsawing firewood and I was tearing out weary garden plants. Today the forecast tells me it will be 85 degrees here in the northlands. Summer is over but not over.

This morning my older son heads off to begin his third year of college. He spent his last day in Maine climbing a mountain with two of his best friends from childhood, and in the evening we all ate a big summer dinner: fried chicken, biscuits, watermelon salad, cucumber salad, and rootbeer floats. Today, the boy and his father will drive south with their truckload of stuff, and his brother and I will drive north to soccer practice, and all of us will feel odd.

Here's a poem by my friend Baron, a poem I've always liked because it captures my own sense of the way in which we cling to our tenuous, temporary seasons.

Poem for My Son

Baron Wormser

Each time you connected I strode among junipers
And ankle-twisting stump-holes to where it seemed the ball had landed.
You waited and gave occasional directions:
"In front of the apple tree. To the right of the boulder, I think."
Before each pitch arrived your boy's body grew taut.
You were like a green snake--lithe, patient, concentrated.

In spring, the hardball's plummet
Ended in a soggy plop. Grounders skidded rather than bounced.
In summer there were wild strawberries--
The tiniest winces of fruit sugar.
We lolled in the modest northern heat and watched
The grasshoppers inherit the earth.

Sometimes while throwing the ball I critiqued
Your swing: "The most difficult of physical feats,
Hitting a baseball." Or I chattered: "The game was not invented
In America but evolved like a--"
You were correct to interrupt. Pleasure wanted
The uncanny knack of concentration: not bearing down too hard
Nor assuming valiant strength would right all flaws.

You rarely flailed in vain. Eventually, you could have
Started for any school team, but we lived too far away
From the practiced accuracy of diamonds.
Whatever was to be learned, in all its green amplitude,
Had to be done there, on a sloping, runneled field.

[from Mulroney & Others (Sarabande Press, 2000)]

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tarte aux framboises des bois du Nord

This is a fairly standard French-style berry tart. I followed Julia Child's recipe for crème pâtissière, in this case using vanilla as a flavoring, though if one could buy kirsch in Harmony, Maine, I might have used that instead. Unlike Julia, I do not add sugar to my tart shells, and I use all butter instead of her shortening-butter combination. This recipe does require a prebaked shell, which for a change came out perfectly: not a slump or a bump. Next time I won't be so fortunate.

The raspberries are from my garden, so that's what I used this time, though I've also made good versions with blueberries and strawberries. Julia's tart recipes call for an apricot-jam glaze over the fruit, but I've never liked handling that gloppy mess. So I lightly brushed the berries with local maple syrup, and the result was beautiful: a delicate shine that didn't darken or weigh down the fruit. I'll always do this from now on. I imagine that if I wanted to intensify the maple flavoring, I could beat some into the crème pâtissière. That variation might be a good choice for a summer-apple or a pear tart.