Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Snow and snow and snow this morning--a beautiful, light, fat-flaked fall. I am enjoying the snow so much this autumn, partly, I think, because, for the first time in two years, I'm not packing boxes for a move but am settling into the homebound pleasures of winter. I love candles, and wood fires, and couch blankets, and a curled-up cat, and a fat novel, and hot tea, and sturdy winter meals. I love the way dark creeps into the late-afternoon rooms, the way the lamplight glitters into dark. I will get tired of all of this in February and March, but for now it's perfect.

I've almost finished reading Middlemarch, but I still have most of the Inferno to copy out. I drafted a new poem yesterday, and I'll go back to it today. A new editing project will show up on my desk next week; tomorrow we'll step into the Thanksgiving social whirl. But for the moment I have a snow day and a desk to myself.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Richard III: Conversation (Act III, Scenes 3 & 4)

I'm opening up comments for this week's RIII assignment: a reflection on something you've struggled with as you've been reading the play.

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In other news: it's a snowy Monday morning in Maine, and the cat is fed up with winter. I'm enjoying it myself, but then again I'm not currently a commuter. When my teaching residencies start up after the new year, I'll be less delighted. So far I've scheduled two long Telling Room gigs in southern Maine, have a teaching project brewing up north for MonsonArts, am leading an MWPA essay workshop in Bangor and a teacher workshop in Augusta . . . plus the two online classes for 24PearlStreet. I need to write poems now while I still have the chance.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Yesterday filled itself with miniscule chores: mending a waistband, sewing Christmas presents, watering plants, unpacking humidifiers and crampons from storage, putting away mud boots, counting candles and candle holders. For dinner I made parmesan breaded chicken breasts, roasted fingerlings, a chard tian. I read Middlemarch but I also watched three episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show while I was sewing. It's not usual for me to be so assiduous about needlework, but we will be hosting Christmas here, and I'm kind of keyed up. My three young people will be in the house, my Vermont family will be staying in town, and various Maine friends will be stopping in. I've got two dinners-for-eleven, Christmas breakfast, and a Boxing Day gathering to plan. It will be the closest thing to a housewarming we've had, not to mention a celebration of my dad's return to life after his horrible near-death summer.

Last year at this time the house was still uninhabitable. This year it is a home, but with some significant gaps: missing doors, no countertop, not nearly enough chairs. So Tom and I have much finagling to do.

I'd like to find a modest wreath for the front door. I don't know where to buy a Christmas tree in this town. I don't even own a tree stand anymore. I definitely don't have a big-enough table for eleven people. But we'll figure it out.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Saturday morning. The neighborhood is still and dark, cradled in snow. At the end of the street a freight train slowly rumbles through. Above us an airplane roars, rises, disappears. I sit here in the living room, in front of the cold woodstove, surrounded by the tools of my trade: a laptop, Middlemarch, a crossword puzzle, a complete Shakespeare, a pencil, an empty cup, a cat. In the kitchen, a tin of shortbread. Upstairs, a basket of sewing. On my desk, the Inferno. Under my desk, a violin case. I lead an old ladyish sort of life, I guess. And yet it's not much different from the life I led ten years ago, twenty years ago. I had more farm animals then, and more land, and more little boys. But I also had the books, the pencil, the cup, the violin.

I drafted a poem yesterday about the ruckus of a snow day here in the neighborhood: cars stuck in driveways, trash cans getting dragged through drifts, little dogs slipping on the ice, a general public hoo-hah. That's a difference: a snow in Harmony was so quiet. Of course the plow truck made noise, but there was no clutter of bodies and houses and busyness. The snow was a private event.

Today . . . I don't know what I'll do today. I suppose I'll walk out into the world. Cook a meal. Read. Invent a story. Write one down.

Friday, November 16, 2018

This morning we woke up to our first snowstorm of the season. Yesterday afternoon, knowing it was coming, I finished raking leaves, bagged up windfall branches, harvested the last of the chard and kale, found the snow shovels. And it was a good thing I did because this snow is real. It took me an hour and a half to shovel driveway, walkways, stoops, and sidewalk, and I haven't even touched my car yet.

But it's beautiful. Through the coated boughs, the steeple of the Congregational church rises over our lesser snowy roofs. Shoveling neighbors greet one another as if we've been trapped in an aggravating sort of holiday. Dogs and cats are amazed. And inside the house, the light is entirely new: pale and cool, an alabaster sheen.

In honor of the snow, I posted a new blog photo: my stalwart bed of lavender under its weight of crystal. And now I'm going to go eat leftover lamb stew and make a hot cup of tea, and write and write and write.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Richard III: Assignment (Act III, Scenes 3 & 4)

Act III of Richard III has many more scenes than the previous acts do, so we're going to creep through it. That mean's this week's reading assignment will be short and your writing assignment will be reflective. I want you to think back over the play so far and write a short essay (a paragraph or two) about what you've been struggling with most during this project. Shakespeare's language, characters, themes? Allowing yourself to immerse yourself in your reading? Fear of sharing your thoughts with others? Or something else altogether? Let's aim to share these next Monday.

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On another note: I've resigned from my band, Doughty Hill. I've been playing with the guys for the better part of a decade, but schedule complications have made things increasingly difficult.We've limped along since I moved south, but it has become clear that I just can't keep up the travel and they need someone who can be at practice every week. I feel really sad about this, but c'est la vie. I wish I knew someone in Portland who wanted to play with me, but I have no connections in the music world down here. I guess I just need to wait and see what happens.

On the bright side, I'm writing like a crazy person. People keep contacting me about teaching jobs. We're hosting a big family Christmas at our new house. My car's transmission works great. The basement leaks only slightly in a heavy rainstorm. I baked a perfect pumpkin pie yesterday. I'm going up north into snow country to eat elk steaks this evening.

The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the sombre green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where’er it fell
To make the coldness visible.
--from "Snow-Bound," by John Greenleaf Whittier

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cold rain is spilling from the eaves, clacking on the sills, hissing under tires. Just north and west of us there is snow, and by the end of the week it will be our turn for white. In the garden, the kale and leeks hang on; the last of the chard and parsley linger; sturdy sage and thyme huddle under their beds of leaves. A few late flowers cluster on the dining-room table. Though I'll soon have to break down and start buying store lettuce, the fact that I have this much still available in the garden, in the week before Thanksgiving, feels like a personal record.

Today: Writing. Reading Middlemarch. Copying out the Inferno. Scrubbing bathrooms. Going to the grocery store. Then, later, I'll walk out into the rain to an evening poetry group. I have been writing so much that I'm not sure what I should bring to share. As I said to a friend yesterday, the poems have been pouring out like blood. And in that way, they also feel dangerous. As if they might draw sharks.

Tomorrow I'll get back to our Richard III project.