Tuesday, October 31, 2017

No tree damage at the Alcott House, just an inch and a half of rainwater in the basement. Looks like we have to add "sump pump" to our list of home improvements. Sigh.

Anyway, we have an intact roof, not like the people three houses down, who are dealing with a sidewalk tree that toppled into their front porch, got all tangled up with wires, and, ugh, what a mess. I read somewhere that 150 street and park trees fell in Portland alone; I assume that figure doesn't include the fallen trees on private property.

My friends up north say the damage is bad there, too, and now they've got long-term power problems as well. The doll-house lost electricity for several hours yesterday, but for some reason Alcott House did not, despite the tree debacle down the street. I guess this is the definition of urban luxury. If I were living in Harmony, I'd still be in the dark.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Like much of coastal New York and New England, we had a wild night, with hurricane-force winds and pounding rain. This morning things seem to be settling down, but the streets are littered with leaves and vote-for-me! signs; the placid bay is boiling over the jetties; trees are writhing in the wind; and emergency vehicles keep flying by on their way to some crisis or another. Schools are closed, and many people have no power, though all we've dealt with here in the doll-house are a few flickers. I am hoping that all is well at Alcott House. It's in a big-old-tree neighborhood, and the worst could happen there.

Fingers of sun are beginning to wriggle through the mist and the storm clouds. The light has a thunderstorm clarity, as if we might see a rainbow at any moment. A few dogs and walkers have emerged from hiding, and two dozen seagulls are solemnly strutting over the park grass, like Legionnaires at a welcome dinner.

Inside the doll-house the windows are still creaking in the gale. I'm tempted to go outside with the dog walkers, and maybe I will. I do love a big wind.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Yesterday I took the day off from painting and drove my parents around to see the sights. We spent most of the morning at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, watching the waves and staring out to sea. We spent most of the afternoon at the Wadsworth-Longfellow House and the Maine Historical Society. And then we came back to the doll-house and I made a baked ham, roasted fingerling potatoes, kale-from-my-garden dinner.

It was pleasant to amble around doing not much. The day was crisp and Octobery. The waves were satisfyingly crashy. The tour buses didn't arrive till we were about to leave.

The garden behind the Longfellow House was quiet and sweetly moldering. While we were there, my father accosted a man in a Chicago Cubs hat, commiserating with him about his team's loss. Instantly his wife bridled up. "We are still World Series champions," she declared. "Nobody else has won the title yet." It was quite entertaining, how passionately she was clinging to her last two days of Cub stardom.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Today is my younger son Paul's twentieth birthday. As Tom said last night, "we are now out of the teenage racket."

It is amazing to me, the certain love from and for this beloved son and friend, who twenty years ago was born at four in the morning during the first ice storm of the season. He was a cozy baby, and a sweet and moody little boy, and a sad and overwrought high schooler, and now he is a tall bearded man, passionate about music and theater and the wilderness--excited, volatile, loving, engaged--but he still calls home every other day or so, for the pleasure of hearing my voice. That in itself is a miracle, at least for me.

We are separated by hundreds of miles today, but we both know we are thinking of one another.

Much love and pride to you, my dear boy, today and every day.

Friday, October 27, 2017

One thing led to another, and I ended up spending the entire day at the house, painting the dining room and the spare room and dealing with the stove guy. But now we have a beautiful little woodstove in the fireplace and no worrisome crack in the chimney. If only we had a kitchen.

The rain has passed, after a stormy night, and today looks like it will be bright and shiny. My parents will be arriving later this afternoon, so I guess it's good I donated a work day to the house cause. Not that I'm complaining about having to mosey around town. It will be a pleasant change.

I'd like to imagine I'll work on my poem draft this morning, but that doesn't seem likely. Last fall I had to manufacture tasks to fill my lonely time. This fall I can't scrape up enough hours in the day.

Still, I'd so much rather be overwhelmed than pointless.

I should take some pictures for you. I'll try to remember.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

I spent yesterday morning with a group of alternative-ed high school students who'd come up to Portland from far southern Maine to spend a morning writing about place. They were cheerful and engaged and worked hard, but, interestingly, while they were eager to talk about how they were writing and from what sources their ideas had come, they were very shy about sharing their actual work. I understand that.

This morning I am again rushing off early, but this time to let the woodstove guy into the house so he can install the stove, repair a chimney crack, and fix a cleanout door. In the meantime, I guess I'll paint some On the Rocks onto the trim in the dining room.

This has not been a great week for getting my editing chores done. But at least there is island weather. And I did start a poem draft while I was teaching yesterday. It features a male character named Baby. Don't ask me where he came from because I have no idea. However, I am all ready to like him.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The rain is falling in sheets and gusts, and I will be walking to work in it. I've got a teaching gig in the morning, and then a walk home in the rain, and then probably a drive to the house to paint and paint and paint. Tom says he's going to work too, though I know his foot is paining him.

I began the morning with a rejection letter, plus my team lost the first game of the World Series, so I am primed for improvement. I think a walk in the rain should help. Yesterday, before the wet moved in, the gusts were whipping leaves and clouds, and the squirrels and chipmunks were skittering up and down the trees. It was weather that makes you lift your head and breathe; weather that, if you're an old milkcow, makes you kick up your heels like a heifer. That is not a metaphor. Have you ever watched an old milkcow rediscover her youth? Nothing is more delightful.

I doubt I will scamper to work, but I hope to trudge cheerfully.

Yesterday, a friend took away our old woodstove, and a nice man bought the old kitchen range for 50 bucks. If you know anyone who needs a used dishwasher and/or refrigerator, let me know. It will be a relief to a have a living room without any appliances in it.

I've got the second coat of yellow on the dining room walls, and this afternoon I'll need to cut in around the trim. No matter that we don't have a kitchen: at least I'm gradually deleting the truly horrible paint jobs in this place. Baby-aspirin pink versus Band-Aid tan? Which is worse? Ugh.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A murky morning, luridly lit. The sunrise was lavender smoke, and now the first light is Day-Glo mustard backed with pink.

Tom is is still hobbling, but his foot isn't infected, so that's a good thing. I'm sorry he got hurt, but I'm not sorry for the enforced rest. If ever there was a man who deserved two days on the couch, it's him.

Today I'll be supervising the exit of the old woodstove (it's off to cozy retirement as a camp stove in the country) and slapping a second coat of Sunny Veranda onto the dining room walls. And then, at some point, I'll get back to editing a book about St. Paul, Minnesota in 1910; do various chores to save Tom a step (literally); set up a time to get my violin bow rehaired; think longingly of writing poems; wonder about when I'll get a chance to finish planting tulips and garlic; and so on.

Yesterday, as I stood next to my kale patch, a neighbor stopped by to admire how quickly the garden has transformed from weeds to produce. I felt proud, standing there surrounded by those elephantine leaves. Really, it has been amazing. And it is a comfort to remember that it counts as progress. Though we still have no kitchen, at least we have a beautiful Swiss chard crop.

Monday, October 23, 2017

An exhausting but fun weekend, in which we won the Battle of the Bands and played a dance at an apple orchard and got paid for it all, followed by a less fun Monday in which I take Tom to Urgent Care because he stepped on a nail. At least this will force him to sit down and rest.

Today: editing, grocery shopping, laundry, cookie baking for a son's birthday, painting the dining room, making something or other for dinner, worrying about Tom's foot, not writing poems.

Friday, October 20, 2017

We have a brand-new sewer pipe! No longer will I cringe every time I flush a toilet. And now I can plant tulip bulbs in the front yard.

That won't be happening today, however. This afternoon I'll hit the road again, heading out for band gigs tonight (in Dover-Foxcroft) and tomorrow night (in Hope). Poor Tom will be left alone with a needy house and a ravening cat as I compete in The Battle of the Bands and then play for a dance party.

[What does one wear to a Battle of the Bands? I'm sure whatever it is, I don't own it.]

* * *

I do want to mention that my friend and I are still working on our co-written poem draft. I am so surprised and amazed at its quality. It think we are on to something, and I am finding the project such a comfort amid the crush of painting and caulking.

* * *

If you want to feel better about the state of the nation, don't read the current New Yorker article about Mike Pence.

* * *

In one week, my younger son is going be 20 years old. He is also more than 6 feet tall and has a giant beard. How did this happen?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Reading the headlines is making me glum. Once again, our jerk-in-chief is displaying his heartlessness, his personal cowardice, his narcissism. How can anyone be so awful? He is truly a despicable American.

As I forge on with my own little life--as I do my jobs, try to write, tend my home--I am also perpetually aware that, in the eyes of this monster, I am worthless. The only thing I have going for me is that I'm white. Otherwise: I earn very little money. I am not beautiful. I do not toady to him. So why should he care if I have health care or clean water or breathable air?

It is terrible to watch such cruelty on public display. It is terrible to recognize that everything I value about humanity is exactly what he derides and ignores. Complexity, variation, ambiguity, creativity, patience, altruism, conversation, thought, honesty, faith. These count for exactly nothing.

I know that none of this is news to you. I know you feel the same way that I do. So at least we have each other. You, over there: you interesting, curious, kind, intelligent person. You, with your moral convictions and your open heart. You, a being who admits you've made a mistake, and apologizes, and tries to do better. You, who listens. Thank you for holding fast.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It looks like, finally, we're about to make some big advances on our house rehab project. Today and tomorrow, the plumber and the excavator will be replacing the sewer line. The electrician promises to come soon, as does the chimney-repair man. So maybe by next week we'll have the power laid out in the kitchen, the chimney crack sealed, a new chimney cleanout door attached, and a woodstove installed. We're going to buy a gently used Jotul F 100, which is little and cute and has a big window for watching the flames, and will fit easily into our teeny-tiny fireplace opening. It is pleasant to imagine Alcott House with a brisk little fire on the hearth.

Today: editing, of course. And maybe running back and forth to deal with the plumber. And definitely painting . . . mostly touch-up work on the finished rooms. I bought some tulip bulbs, and as soon as the sewer work is done, I will feel safe about planting them in the front foundation beds.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Me Too

It is startling--no, shocking; no, horrifying--to read in plain English what women have always privately known: that nearly every one of us has been subjected to sexual harassment, and that most of us have seen it as so normal that we haven't said a word to anyone about it . . . often not even to ourselves. This is sickening. It has likewise been a shock to read the reactions of good and earnest men who have never truly comprehended the breadth and depth of the issue; who have not understood that nearly every woman they know has been fending off or giving in since she was a little girl.

I have been touched, leered at, propositioned, and joked about. I have been threatened and grabbed and thrown into doors. I have found myself in frightening and bizarre situations with both strangers and loved ones. I learned early, very early, to be wary, to compartmentalize, to keep quiet.

I have listened to other men ridicule my husband for not keeping me in line . . . by which I mean, when we went to buy invitations for our wedding, and I said that I'd be keeping my own name, the clerk stared at Tom and said, "You're going to let her do that?" I ventured to comment, at a car dealership, about a truck that Tom was considering, and the salesman sneered, "I guess we can tell who wears the pants in the family." In other words: what kind of man allows a woman to have any power--even the power to ask a question or choose her name?

The thing is: my experiences are not unique. They are normal. In some ways I am lucky. I've never had to sit on anyone's lap to get a promotion. I've never been raped at a party and dumped behind a trash can. But you'll notice that I'm still not giving you many details about what did happen. And that's because harassment is so intimately woven into the complications of my history that saying anything is liable to create an enormous tear. What's the point of that? That's a question that all women ask themselves, all the time. And so most of us stay quiet.

There's shame in admitting that one has been a victim. There's the simple hideous distress of having to relive these moments of the past. But at the same time I've had a perpetual need to concentrate on the ways in which I have not been beaten down. I read. I write. I try to see the ambiguities. That preoccupation has led me away from an urge to blame. This may not be a good thing in the sense of revealing the depth of the problem. But it has been a way to take charge.

Monday, October 16, 2017

No longer do I only paint. Now I also rip out phone wiring, yank out nails, tear down ceilings, spackle holes, caulk cracks, and brandish a power drill.

And then I come back to the doll-house and do laundry, clean the bathroom, make dinner, and wake up at 3 a.m. after dreaming that a camel was blocking the restaurant door I was trying to open.

The upshot is: I'm tired. And today I have a desk full of editing, followed by more painting and caulking. This all seems likely to go on forever, certainly well beyond the day we move in. I think we will be lucky to have running water in that kitchen by November, let alone any usable surfaces.

Ah, well. I am comforted by the beauty of the freshly painted green front door. The paint chip calls it Gleeful. That is probably going too far, but it is certainly a great improvement over Shiny Electric Blue with Matching Plastic Shutters.

I am also comforted by the bounty of my new garden. Those peaked little greens I transplanted from my deck containers adore their sunny new home. I have an overflow of kale, chard, and arugula, and the perennial herbs are thriving.

Of course I'm also melancholy about Richard Wilbur this morning. The sage is growing, but the old guard is fading away.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

I slept till 7 this morning, which is blissfully late for me, and now I am quietly sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and thinking about John Brown. There is so much moral ambiguity in his story . . . not just within the man himself but also within his detractors and supporters--for instance, the Concord cadre, as Thomas Wentworth Higginson (himself a fervent abolitionist) recalled:
Higginson saw that, despite their different temperaments, [Thoreau and Bronson Alcott] took self-reliant action when it came to protesting against slavery. For them as for others, Transcendentalism bred not complacency but courage. Higginson enjoyed describing Alcott's intrepedity during the Anthony Burns affair [involving a fugitive slave being recaptured in a free state] and again after the Harpers Ferry raid, when Alcott offered to help go rescue John Brown from the Charles Town jail. Thoreau, too, combined quietism and pluck. As Higginson noted, "In a similar way Thoreau, after all his seeming theories of self-absorption, ranged himself on the side of John Brown as placidly as if he were going for huckleberries.". . . 
. . . Transcendentalism went hand in hand with a militant reform stance. Like Higginson, [Reverend Theodore] Parker was deeply involved in several movements, including women's rights, temperance, and prison reform. His Abolitionism started mildly, as indicated by his rational "Letter to a Slave-Holder" (1848), but flamed into rage with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Even as he kept up his pursuits as a multilingual scholar and minister, he took part in attempted rescues of fugitive blacks and endorsed slave rebellions. Praising John Brown's effort to spark an insurrection by blacks at Harpers Ferry, he wrote, capitalizing his words for emphasis: "ONE HELD AGAINST HIS WILL AS A SLAVE HAS A NATURAL RIGHT TO KILL EVERY ONE WHO SEEKS TO PREVENT HIS ENJOYMENT OF LIBERTY." 
[from David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist]
Higginson is most famous today as Emily Dickinson's mentor and editor, but he also "command[ed] the first African American regiment during the Civil War," and, as I discovered when I was compiling my anthology A Poet's Sourcebook, he was one of the first people to write down the lyrics of the spirituals he heard his soldiers singing. The ways in which these nineteenth-century figures intertwine are fascinating--almost as if the century were a small town. But I digress, for my central concern this morning circles around these quotations from Reynolds's biography, which are morally startling yet also inarguable. As someone who was raised in the Society of Friends, I tend to instantly fall toward pacificism. Still, as the institution of slavery has shown, peace-mongering may also be an easy way to avoid taking a stand against evil. It seems that pacificism, too, can be cowardice and selfishness--the opposite of righteousness.

Friday, October 13, 2017

This has been a ridiculously social week for me. On Tuesday I went for a long walk with a dear young person. On Wednesday I went north for band practice, then spent the night with the young person's parents, also dear. On Thursday I went north for a poetry/fiction reading and then had an impromptu dinner at the home of complete (but lovely) strangers. Tonight I'll perform at a Portland bar in front of a crowd of people I may or may not know.

Yesterday afternoon my college son called and asked, "How does it feel to have a social life?" I told him it felt peculiar. He agreed. He finds it peculiar as well, all this hanging out and talking to people.

I do have a few hours alone today to recover. But on the whole, I know it's good for me to climb out of my hole and mingle with my species. Sometimes, in these gatherings, I find myself sinking back into a teenage world of worry--you know, about stupid things like "I wish my hair didn't stick out so weirdly." But mostly I'm learning to forget them. Who cares if my hair sticks out weirdly? Who cares if my pants make me look fat? I'm 53 years old. What do I have to prove?

I've also had another interesting social interaction this week. One of my Frost Place friends, a young man who's just snagged his first university job, proposed an experiment: that we write a poem draft together, responding to one another's lines. He began by sending me five or so lines, I added five more, he added five more, and so on. We don't have the same writing or imaginative style, but we seem to be working well together--feeling each other out, riffing on each other's narrative moves. The project is becoming a fascination, and it also feels like a creative work-around for two people who have been so busy with other life requirements that we haven't been able to be poets. I don't know where this piece will go, but it's the most exciting poetic thing I've been able to manage this fall.

See you tonight, maybe?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Yesterday I went on a 4-mile sunset walk with a young woman whom I have loved since she was a baby. It was a very sweet evening--watching for egrets, exclaiming at the colors reflecting in the cove, chattering in the way people do when they have known each other forever . . . which, as far as she is concerned, is the kind of person I am in her life. And for me, just getting a dose of beloved young person, with mine so far away, was revivifying. I came home and made dinner for Tom and told him all about my walk, and we were both so happy to talk about our friend and her plans. I love that these life links give him joy too.

Tonight I head north for band practice. And by the way, southern Maine friends, we are performing in Portland on Friday night, at the Thirsty Pig on Exchange Street, from 6 to 8. It would be so lovely to see you there.

In the meantime, I will do some editing and then work on a poem and then run over to the house and slap another coat of paint onto the stairwell. It's amazing how much better a wall looks when it isn't covered in a single coat of dirty, streaky mustard-color swiped over an equally dirty, streaky coat of Pepto-Bismol pink. Blah.

I will leave you with a fine quotation from the Cleveland Indians radio play-by-play guy:
"He's gonna open this thing wide open."
Ain't it the truth?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The doll-house is filled with wet light. Fingers of sun glint off wet leaves and roads, the park grass is speckled with seagulls, an old man is searching a trashcan for returnables, and some one has propped up the abandoned red bike.

Tom and I spent the entire long weekend working on the house (with a brief late afternoon hiatus for my birthday), and now Tom has to go do the same thing on other people's houses. It is an unfortunate state of affairs, and I wish I had more actual skills so I could take the burden off him. As it is, all I can do is be the queen of paint. I have now finished all three upstairs rooms--ceiling, walls, and trim--and have moved on to the ceiling in the landing and the stairwell. Today I'll do a second ceiling coat there and maybe a first coat of wall paint . . .

. . . I know this is dull talk, but painting is the only news I possess.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

I had a lovely day yesterday. We took a half-day off from home renovation and went for a long walk around our new neighborhoods . . . first down to Baxter Boulevard, along Back Cove, and then up through Payson Park and a zig-zag through the small streets along Ocean Avenue. We saw plenty of egrets, which made me happy.

We went back to the apartment for a nap, and in the evening, as the island fog rolled in, we ambled out for oysters at a new place on Washington Avenue. And then we walked another block for dinner and really good wine at the Drifter's Wife.

It was a sweet day, with many messages of affection from friends and family. I feel so fortunate to have you all.

Today we jump back onto the house-repair train. Tom's plan is to rip out and reframe the kitchen doorway and then install the new door. My plan is to paint pale-gray trim in the upstairs studies and eventually take a break to weed my garden.

In my reading life: John Brown is just about to commit atrocities among the proslavery yahoos at Pottawattomie, Kansas. In my radio-listening life: the Red Sox are just about to lose their elimination game to the Astros.

Outside the window a dump truck is loitering; kids are shouting about something or other. And now suddenly everything is silent, except for the sound of a small plane buzzing behind the clouds. Fog is hanging a thin veil over the bay, and the cat is sitting in the window, purring to himself.

I am writing these few words, and now I am remembering that I am a writer.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Today is my 53rd birthday, and I am sitting at my kitchen table in my red bathrobe, drinking coffee, writing to you, with a fat book at my elbow. Some things never change, even when everything does.

It's been a strange year. On my last birthday I was living by myself in Harmony. The house sale had evaporated. My dog had died. Everything was tragic.

Now here I am in Portland, preparing to spend my birthday painting the upstairs trim of the house we're madly trying to renovate before our apartment lease runs out. We're tired, and neither one of us has a speck of time for creative thought. But we're also having a comic romance together, one based around paint colors and new windows and the excitement of a thriving crop of greens in our slapdash new garden. As my friend Shonna said to me the other day, middle age is so funny. Whoever expected it would be like this?

I was so terribly lonely in Harmony on last year's birthday. This year I am not . . . though I am often still lonely for Harmony. That grief will never disappear. I lost my land, and I won't recover from it. But yesterday, as I crouched in the driveway hosing paint out of a brush, I was feeling peaceable enough about where I'd landed. And this morning, as I drink coffee and write to you, I'm still feeling okay. Last year at this time--even six months ago, even three months ago--I wasn't sure I ever would feel that way again.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sorry today's post is so late: I had to rush out of the apartment first thing to meet the door-and-window delivery guy, who of course arrived an hour later than he said he would. Now, for a few minutes, I am catching up with emails and you, and then I will rush back to the house to show the woodstove to some friends who might want it for their camp. And then I will rush back here to deal with laundry. And then I will rush back to the house and spend the rest of the day painting.

This morning, though, Tom said, "You might want to open my birthday present today instead of tomorrow." His present turned out to be a sweet little wood-encased radio so that I can listen to baseball playoffs while painting. It's a good thing I've already resigned myself to being a Cleveland fan because the Red Sox ain't going nowhere in this series. But at least I can hear them choke in excellent audio.

I'm still working my way steadily into Reynolds's John Brown, Abolitionist. Here are a few passages you might want to mull over . . . perhaps as you consider your own interior thoughts about progressives and deplorables and violence and righteousness and evil.

John Brown treated these . . . black families in the area on terms of complete equality. He worked with them, surveyed their lands, and socialized with them, often visiting their homes and taking them into his. Lyman Epps, Jr., would never forget the kindness Brown showed toward his family. Epps recalled Brown as "a true friend of my father's," adding, "He'd walk up to our house on the Table Lands and come in and play with us children and talk to father. Many's the time I've sat on John Brown's knee. He was a kind and friendly man with children." 
* * * 
It mattered little to [proslavery] Senator Atchison and his ilk that interstate voting was illegal. As one of his Missouri confederates, General B. F. Stringfellow, said in a speech, "To those who have qualms of conscience as to violating laws, state or national, I say the time has come when such impositions must be disregarded, since your rights and property are in danger. And I advise you, one and all, to enter every election district in Kansas . . . and vote at the point of the bowie-knife and revolver." . . . 
By all accounts, the [Missourians] were a scurvy bunch, well deserving of their moniker: border ruffians. One Free State man described them as the most "rough, coarse, sneering, swaggering, dare-devil looking rascals as ever swung upon the gallows," another as "groups of drunken, bellowing, blood-thirsty demons." The New-York Tribune portrayed the typical border ruffian as tall, slim, hairy-faced, wearing a dirty flannel shirt and dark pants held up by a leather belt from which protruded a bowie knife. 
* * * 
But John Brown would soon be making use of his weapons [in Kansas]--most memorably those menacing two-bladed broadswords he had brought from Ohio.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

This afternoon I will drive north to band practice, and perhaps along the way I'll see the leaves starting to redden. Here in Portland, all I notice is a vague yellow shriveling more like August drought than October color.

The humidity has ticked up, and a warm breeze is blowing into the doll-house from the bay. I spent yesterday in a meeting about an upcoming teaching residency, then editing some manuscripts, painting closets, and trying, without success, to stay awake to listen to the Yankees-Twins game. I also found out that, no surprise, I did not win the Autumn House Prize. On the other hand, I was invited to judge the state Poetry Out Loud competition next spring. And my parents sent me two boxes crammed with wrapped birthday presents, so now the doll-house looks like Christmas.

Today I'll edit, and vacuum up cat hair, and listen to a bunch of songs we might be working on at band practice. I'll try not to fret about my manuscripts.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I'm heading off shortly for a meeting at a school where I'll be working later this winter. In the meantime, I'll leave you with these couple of John Doe poems, just out at Scoundrel Time. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Well, I'm starting the week off feeling as if I need a weekend, but c'est la vie in the home-recovery business. I've now got second coats of paint on all three upstairs rooms, a closet completely done, and an alcove first-coated. This evening I'll prime two more closets and the hall ceiling and put a second coat on the alcove, which, being yellow, may need a third.

This is dull conversation, I know, but I'm trying to put off wailing about murder. Trapped in paint as I was, I managed not to hear anything about the terror attacks in Edmonton and Las Vegas until this morning. And now that I know, I am gnashing my teeth and pacing around and asking, What the hell?, just like you are, I suppose.

And yet I am also reading the biography of a terrorist.

Here, beside the doll-house, drivers sweep around the corner on their way to work. That abandoned red bike is still locked to a post beside the park. Chilly walkers rush down the sidewalk.

In five days I will turn 53. I wonder what world I was imagining 50 years ago.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

"On winter evenings the family often sat in the living room by the huge fireplace, ten feet wide with oversized andirons and a crane with hooks that held kettles. John Brown would gather two or three children on his lap and sing hymns or discuss national affairs." --from David S. Reynolds, John Brown, Abolitionist

* * *

The image of John Brown cuddling "two or three children on his lap" is very startling, but also very moving. I had not imagined him to be such a loving father, and yet he had 20 children (not all survived childhood), and he was intimately involved in their upbringing.

The other night, as Tom was washing dishes, he began talking, with sudden joy, about our sons--the great pleasure he has in knowing what decent human beings they have become, his equally great pleasure in their entertaining company. Tom is not an emoter, so his burst was notable. I of course beamed and agreed with everything, and so now I am thinking of John Brown and those "two or three" in his lap with great tenderness for both the children and their parents. I did not sing hymns to my boys, but I did sing.