Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Yesterday I went on my first local mushrooming walk. A friend took me to a wooded area in Cape Elizabeth, in search of miatakes, which we did not find. But she discovered some oyster mushrooms, and I picked some cadillacs and a handful of late chanterelles, which was thrilling.

For the past several days Portland has been enveloped in fog. My mushrooming friend calls this "island weather," which I think is a lovely term. The air is heavy with droplets; glasses fog up; hair stands on end; all dogs smell like wet dog; buildings and trees and water are draped in veils. Yet the wind is mild, the dampness exhilarating. Island weather is beautiful.

I do hope my John Brown autobiography arrives today because I have run out of things to read and have been driven to propping up the New Yorker in front of my breakfast plate. I have nothing against the New Yorker, but the fact that it's full of Current Stuff I Should Know is, for some reason, not a good-enough draw. I don't want to read a magazine. I want to read a book.

Monday, September 18, 2017

I drove up north yesterday afternoon for a band gig, spent the night in beautiful silent starlit Wellington, and then trundled home to the city to paint a ceiling. Next weekend will be more of the same: for some reason, we ended up with a bunch of fall gigs.

This week I'll be starting a couple of new editing projects, for private clients, on subjects I don't usually deal with, so that will be something new. I've got a poem draft burbling on the stove, and more ceilings to paint, and all of the doll-house housework to do. A friend and I might be going on a mushroom walk today.

But back to that burbling poem draft: it might be nothing, but I like how its sentences are rolling out of my fingers. If nothing else, it seems to be giving me the pleasure of composition and God knows that's not a given.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

I have been editing a book of academic essays, which the compilers have organized as a tribute to the work of the scholar David S. Reynolds, whose field is the American Renaissance--that is, nineteenth-century American literature and culture. I had no idea that Reynolds was such an influence among academics, but he has certainly influenced me. I think I have read his book Walt Whitman's America three or four times; it offers such an amazing display of the way in which Whitman absorbed his busy world into his work. As biographies go, I would put it on the shelf right up there next to Jackson Bate's biography of Keats.

So yesterday, as I was reaching the end of my editing assignment, I realized that Reynolds had written the afterword of the manuscript--I was going to be editing the man himself. And I was not much surprised to learn that he is a beautiful writer who required very little from me. The essay was about Lincoln and religion--gleaned, I'm assuming, from the biography of Lincoln that is his current project. So while I can't buy that book yet (and I will), I can buy the one I've been meaning to read for a while: Reynolds's biography of the abolitionist John Brown. That will fit beautifully into my current transcendentalist meanderings, as both Thoreau and the Alcotts sympathized with Brown's radical actions.

There is nothing like falling down the reading rabbit-hole, is there? Let us lift a glass to the libraries and the bookcases and the old falling-apart volumes and the books we meant to read and finally did and the books we stumble over with joy and the curious jolt of rereading the same book twenty times and the heft of a fat hardback in the hand.

Friday, September 15, 2017

We may or may not have rain today, but the air is heavy and the light is slow. Down at the wharf, the island barge is beeping and clanking. From the kitchen, Tom calls, "Ruckus!" and the cat gallops off to see what's what. I am nearly finished with the last of my trilogy of Alcott novels, Jo's Boys, and wondering what to read next.

I've been thinking this week about generations, of course. This was my first visit to one of my sons in a home he had made: not just a decorated dorm room but a living space arranged with another loved human being. And there was something so moving in that . . . in watching my son be a good man, a caretaker, a partner. It was yet another miracle, among the so many surprising miracles of life that I have never imagined.

Today I hope to find a small space for writing something that belongs to me.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sorry I didn't drop you a line yesterday. I had company in the morning, and a chimney sweep in the afternoon, and two tons of laundry and editorial duties in the interstices. The good news is that the chimney flue in the new house is lined and usable. The semi-bad news is that the woodstove is overfired junk. It's an ugly little chunk, so we're not heartbroken. But it might have been nice not to have to buy yet another expensive thing right away.

I am feeling kind of lonesome for my son and his girlfriend this morning. The three of us had such an extremely good time together in Chicago.

But enough of such repining. I have a book to edit.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Last Day of the Travelogue

Yesterday James took me to the studio where he works as a camera assistant for the NBC TV show Chicago Fire. The place is enormous, taking up at least two city blocks, and the surrounding streets are jammed with trucks, security, catering setups, trailers, not to mention many city emergency vehicles. The buildings we wandered through house the stages for both Chicago Fire and its sister show Chicago PD. We'd walk through what looked like a basic backstage area and then suddenly be in an enormous fake bar, or fake locker room, or fake hospital corridor, or fake bunk house, or fake police sergeant office. The difference between reality and fakery became difficult to determine. Unlike a theater set, a TV set has to mimic the tiny close-up details that a camera will catch. The sergeant's office walls have to have chips on the wall where the actor leans back in his desk chair during a scene. The interrogation room has to have rusty stains that might or might not be blood. I'd linger in one of these hyperrealistic rooms and then walk into the next one, also hyperrealistic, but this time filled with crew killing time between shots: say, lying around on the fake bunks or leaning up against the fake walls. I began to feel as if I were at Madame Tussaud's and the guards were playing "am I real or wax?" tricks on me.

But everyone seems to love James, from his bosses to the catering staff, so that was of course delightful. He always has had the trick, ever since childhood, of knowing how to project public eagerness, curiosity, and good cheer. And the rest of his family has always been impressed and amazed, since we are not so good at that.

In so many ways, this whole trip has been a magical event for me. That noisy little get-into-everything boy has transformed into a smart, hardworking, funny, reliable, curious, and extremely loving man. How did I get to be so lucky to be his mother?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Yesterday we went to a circus and to three grocery stores, and then we made a long, involved snack meal of spring rolls and potato-kimchee salad and watermelon with mint and black pepper. And we talked and talked, and then we got dozy on the couch in front of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
My son's partner: People ask me, Is James really that sweet? And I say, Yes, he really is.  His whole family is that sweet.
James [smiling.] 
Me: [beaming.]
It was that kind of evening. I am very happy to be here.

On the docket today: a visit to my son's TV studio, a visit to the Museum of the History of Chicago, dinner at a Russian restaurant with my brother-in-law, who texted J to say he's in town for work. That was unexpected. Who knew coming to Chicago would end up being a family reunion?