Saturday, May 26, 2018

According to the thermometer, the temperature was 86 in Portland yesterday. Yet here in this neighborhood of enormous maples, the weather was perfect . . . a warm wind, dense green shade, a torrent of birdsong with a trickle of city noise beyond. Even our ugly backyard had its charms, and the cat and I enjoyed an hour there with a glass of wine, two lawn chairs, and a Thomas Hardy novel. Tom, for his part, spent the evening tooling around Casco Bay in his boss's boat, so he had an equally fine summer celebration.

But enough of this weather talk: you are probably wondering how you got so lucky to know a woman who's gone through three transmissions in the space of a month. After much driving and fretting, the repair guys managed to get my car to replicate Wednesday's scary moment in Waterville. Flaw in the replacement transmission, they agreed. So now another is on order, with arrival scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday. The previous transmission was a low-mileage used part with a three-year warranty, and this will be another one like it . . . which is to say, I won't be paying for anything. But really: this story is getting silly.

I'm so grateful for your good cheer about Chestnut Ridge. Already two poets have agreed to write blurbs for the cover, and that is a huge weight off my mind because I hate to ask people to write blurbs. I'm considering cover photos, starting to finalize acknowledgments, and thus far it's all been a pleasure. This book has been floating for so long.

Today: more warm weather, some thunderstorms, baseball on the radio. Transplanting chard and bok choi. Acquiring a cucumber plant. Buying a string trimmer to deal with the mess of weeds along the stone wall. Best of all: putting up a clothesline.

Friday, May 25, 2018

I am so happy to announce that Deerbrook Editions will be publishing Chestnut Ridge in 2019. I am also relieved and grateful. You know how long this book has been hunting for a home--so long that I thought it might never find a landing place.

The weight off my shoulders is significant. It's funny how heavy an unpublished manuscript can become.

Now, this morning, as I stand at my desk in my green-shadowed study, waiting for the heat of the day to kick in, I am also feeling a sense of quietude that is linked, as so many things are, to my loss of the Harmony land. Although Chestnut Ridge is not set in Harmony, it was the last big project that I completed there. All of it was written at my desk in our bedroom, up the steep stairs, next to the window overlooking the autumn olive hedge and the overgrown mock-orange. I will never write another word in that room, yet every book I have published was born there.

The next manuscript, Songs about Women and Men, is a transitional collection: some poems from Harmony, some from Portland. Somehow that makes everything different, at least to me.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

. . . and the transmission saga continues.

I was an hour north of Portland, driving at 70 mph, when my car said "clunk," the transmission felt as if it had slipped into neutral, and I fortuitously managed to pull off onto an exit and call AAA to tow me home.

Apparently all is not well with the replacement transmission. But at least it is definitively covered with a warranty.

Still: ugh.

On the bright side, I slept in my own bed. And I have plenty of time to clean the house before tonight's dinner party. The question is: what party food can I buy within walking distance of my house?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Philip Roth is dead. At some point I hope to write a fuller reaction to that loss, but I have to teach this morning and then rush north for practice this afternoon, so my elegy will have to wait. Suffice it to say that my readerly relationship with Roth's work has been complicated and slightly obsessive and marked by both irritation and admiration. In other words, he has been an influence in all sorts of ways, and in fact bears a certain resemblance to John Milton in the way in which he has, despite my aggravation and resistance, wormed his way into my life.

Roth = Milton. That alone is a thought worth exploring.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The sky is gray this morning, but the air over Goose Cove is clear and fogless. A lobster boat bobs in the glassy water, and beyond it lies Swan Island, an indistinct strip of vegetation and modest hills.

Yesterday we hiked up North Bubble, across to Conners Nubble, and then back along carriage trails and down alongside Jordan Pond. During the summer this particular section of Acadia will be thronged with visitors, but at the moment it is still relatively quiet. Often, when we visit Mount Desert Island, we avoid the eastern sections of the park altogether. But there's a reason visitors love these places: they are visually intense . . . long vistas of mountain and sea, cliffs hugging blue lakes, waves crashing against sharp rocks. In Acadia, the postcards of Maine come to life.

Still, the peaceable view from this cottage is more lovable. We've been coming to this quiet house on the cove for a long time . . . for at least 15 years, maybe more. Our little boys roamed the muddy beach. Our young poodle rolled ecstatically in horrible-smelling fish innards. Our friends in the main house came down to the cottage every evening for dinner.

Now the boys are grown up and far away. The poodle is dead. But our friends still come down for dinner. The bond still vibrates. I don't have my Harmony land anymore, but there are places--this cottage, Robert Frost's porch--that weave into my life story. I am lucky.

And by this evening we'll be back in Portland--doing laundry, buying groceries, getting bitten by the ireful cat. The life story goes on.

Monday, May 21, 2018


Blurred view of Frenchman's Bay, while the photographer was sitting on a rock, eating a ham sandwich, and being lightly rained on.

Later the photographer returned to the land of wi-fi and discovered that her poem "The Maine Woods" had been published in the Maine Sunday Telegram. The poem is somewhat less blurry than this photo is.

Sunday, May 20, 2018



Greetings from Goose Cove, which is blanketed in mist this morning.  Beneath the fog lie one or two anchored lobster boats and a breakfasting loon. The tide is shifting noisily, a pebbled surge, but there are no dramatic rocks and breakers here. All that is on the other side of the island.

This is the view from our bedroom window, and from our little dining table, and from our screened porch. The air is cold, and a raw dampness seeps from the clouds and the shore. It is a good morning to light a wood fire and drink coffee and copy out Akhmatova poems.

Yesterday afternoon we managed to get in a four-plus-mile hike along the carriage trails that circle Witch Hole Pond. I wish I could regale you with the legend of Witch Hole, but nobody I ask seems to know anything about it. Here is a lousy photo of Duck Brook, which carves out a gorge alongside the trail, and another photo that shows one of the fancy bridges that the island's erstwhile owner, John D. Rockefeller., Jr., had built along these trails. This urge to fancy up the wilderness is called rusticating. You may find that term ironic. Nonetheless, the bridges and carriage trails are impressive.



As you can see, spring is not well advanced here at Acadia. The leaves on the trees are small, and in general winter shades prevail. Here and there a few violets bloom on the verge; an unknown-to-me purple-flowered shrub occasionally brightened the wayside. But mostly the colors were grays and browns and staid greens.