Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Of course I didn't watch the State of the Union last night. I already have a pretty good idea of the state of the union, and I'd rather chew glass than sit on the couch and watch that publicity hog gleefully lie, boast, and defame. What a humiliation he is.

Nonetheless, I still have kind of a Trump hangover this morning. The man is like smog: no matter what you do, you can't help breathing in the poison.

How is it possible to lead a decent life under the aegis of Trump? It's certainly very difficult. Given his evil, we must be vigilant. Yet vigilance requires us to pay attention to him, and our attention is what gives him power. We wallow in the swamp, whether we like it or not.

And yet: Bright cold air. A brisk walk. A difficult poem. A vase of tulips. Resistance comes in peculiar forms.

It sounds foolish to say that love can save our nation. It is foolish to say such a thing. But love is what he is not. He cannot comprehend it, nor faith, nor patience, nor generosity. It is terrible to picture these quiet characteristics as weapons. Yet they are what we have. And losing them--or forgetting to call upon them--would be dire.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

After moving the furniture around in my study on Sunday, I spent most of yesterday working and reading and loafing there. It is a beautiful space for my purposes: quite small but with two big windows and room for shelves and two simple tables and a plant and an old yellow reading chair (though you can't see it in the photo). There are still no pictures on the walls, no doors on the hinges. I have no drawers or cupboards, and the tiny closet is given over to clothes (we are very short of storage space).

But this morning, when I walked in and turned on the lamp, I saw that I had laid out two poetry books on the desk: collections by Berryman and Akhmatova. I saw the stack of student essays in the basket beside the yellow chair. I saw dim morning light shadowing the blue walls and polished floor. I saw the violin case waiting under the standing desk (which Tom made for me out of an old piano); the old round stool tucked under the child's desk (which Tom made for a son who has since flown into world). I see the stones on the windowsill (collected on icy Maine coves, among the tree roots and boulders of my erstwhile 40 acres, along the weedy paths of the Roman forum); the cobalt blue cup with Shirley Temple's picture printed on it (given to me four decades ago by my Great-Aunt Wanda who was married to grumpy Uncle Oscar who owned a jewelry store in Wauwatosa); the junk-shop bookend in the shape of a black poodle (purchased with birthday money by a small boy who loved his dog); the chunk of green sea glass (unearthed from the Cape May sand by a long-dead friend of my heart). I see the beloved books.

I am sorry if I have wearied you with my house, but I know am still convalescing from the pain of leaving Harmony. I grip onto small comforts--a space, a lamp, a clean window, a bright floor. I was talking to a friend last week about the tremendous physical peace I feel when I look at stacks of towels and sheets, crisp and well folded, the colors aligned, the lines square, the odor of sunshine rising from their threads. I am, it seems, a creature of home, a snail in need of a shell. This funny little awkward cottage has turned out to be one.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Another Monday morning. This week I'll be undertaking a new editing project: the prizewinning manuscript in an AWP fiction contest. I've also got student essays to read, and I'm hoping to keep working on a set of linked poems currently titled "Sonnets for the Arsonist." I'll probably finish reading Dr. Thorne this morning, and I'll probably copy out a few poems from Gary Snyder's Turtle Island. I plan to go for a long afternoon walk. I should find a new yoga teacher.

Yesterday I bought a bunch of tulips, and now they sit in a stone jar on the coffee table--arrow-leaved, tightly budded, with a pale hint of future orange. Outside much of the snow has melted, and the garden looks like a wet dog. I wish I could plant something.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Courtesy toward Artists and Entertainers

Apart from the courtesies that every really well-bred hostess instinctively shows alike to friends, acquaintances, or stranger who are admitted to her house, particular rules that should apply in reference to professional artists do not go very far because so much depends on circumstances. Generally speaking, all entertainers should be admitted at the front door, of course.

--from Emily Post, Etiquette (1960 edition)

* * *

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when loves comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.

--from Jack Gilbert, "Failing and Flying"

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The weather is supposed to be balmy this weekend--mid-40s and sunny--which means, I hope, that the wretched ice-covered driveways and roadways and sidewalks will dissolve into passable thoroughfares. Even with crampons on my boots, I've almost fallen numerous times. And then, after stupidly spending an hour beating at the ice with a shovel, I manage to aggravate the old carpal tunnel injury in my wrist, so now I am on an ibuprofen diet and I'm afraid to carry anything breakable in my weak right hand and I had to sit meekly through the talking-to that Tom gave me about being careless with my well-known nerve problems.

Ah well. At least I don't have a violin gig this weekend. That would have been unfortunate.

I have been reading Anthony Trollope's Doctor Thorne and Jack Gilbert's Collected Poems. I have been listening to Sly and the Family Stone, and Otis Redding, and the Jam. I have been frying haddock and roasting Brussels sprouts. I have been studying curtain and blind patterns and trying to get up the courage to sew.

This weekend we'll get a bathroom door: a very exciting advance. And it's a lovely door, with an old-fashioned panel of pebbled glass, which Tom resuscitated and repaired and I painted. He thinks it was probably the original bathroom door in this house, but previous owners had replaced it with a cheesy narrow pocket door and had then hacked off its top and bottom and crammed it into the dining room doorway to serve as the back side of a faux closet for an emergency bedroom in a house that had way, way too many people and cats living in it.

And it's possible we may also finish getting all of our possessions out of storage, which means we might get bedroom dressers--another exciting advance.

Tonight's dinner: fish tacos, with last night's leftover haddock, along with the neighborhood-made corn tortillas sent as a Christmas gift from our Chicago children and some combination of tomatoes, greens, cilantro, and avocado; possibly also a golden-beet or roasted rutabaga salad. And ibuprofen, of course.

Friday, January 26, 2018

I'm running a bit late this morning because it's trash day at the Alcott House, which means that I spent a very long time scuffling around the basement in my bathrobe, where I was collecting and breaking down stacks of moving boxes into pieces small enough to jam into the recycling bin, while also trying to keep the cat from climbing into every single box I was trying to eliminate.

In the end, I did manage to stuff an extraordinary number of boxes into a relatively small space, and I did not accidentally recycle the cat. So, success!

And last night's essay class was wonderful. Such interesting participants! And such a beautiful conversation! We talked about three essays: a craft piece by Philip Lopate and then Joan Didion's "On Keeping a Notebook" and Ocean Vuong's "Surrendering." The participants' sensitivity, acuity, and generosity were just lovely to behold. I feel so fortunate to have been a witness.

So today: bread baking, and a curriculum meeting about my upcoming high school residency, and errands, and maybe even a chance to do some writing. Already the sun is shining, and the world is busy and alive, and I am fidgety and cheerful and a little bit disorganized and distractible--very pleasant feelings for a Friday morning, and I plan to let them take charge of my day.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thank you, fellow cooks, for yesterday's fine suggestion. I decided to make chapathi, and I rolled them out on parchment and then cooked them on the new stove, and everything worked beautifully. I wondered how well the breads would puff up over an electric element (I've always used gas), but, in fact, they turned out far better on this stove than they did on my old one. I quickly baked each chapathi on a griddle, then flipped it onto a spatter screen and shook it over high heat for about 30 seconds, until it ballooned. And then Tom and I stood around in the kitchen and ate them hot with a salad made of cucumbers, yogurt, salt, and roasted mustard seeds and cumin. And then we adjourned to the dining room, where I served the remaining chapathi (kept warm in the stove's handy warming drawer) with what might be the best chicken curry I've ever concocted (ingredients: onions, diced chicken breast, diced potatoes parboiled in broth, coconut milk, homemade garam masala, chili paste, turmeric, fenugreek, spinach, cilantro, parsley, split cherry tomatoes, served over jasmine rice cooked in the leftover potato broth).

Today, there will be no such dinner as I'll have to rush off to teach the first class in my ten-week essay workshop, and Tom will rush off to attend an opening at the Portland Museum of Art that features a glorious birchbark canoe built by our friend Steve Cayard and the late David Moses Bridges. I'm feeling more and more excited about this workshop, but I am sorry to miss the opening. You should go, if you can.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Last night Tom brought home the last few missing kitchen-cupboard shelves, so this morning I had the fun of arranging and rearranging and rearranging again. What is amazing is that there is actually extra space in some of these cupboards. I don't have to crush all of the plates and pans and wineglasses together into a dark-cornered jigsaw puzzle. Instead, each faction rests airily on its own bright plank, and almost everything is easy to see and to reach.

To have a kitchen that makes sense: this is such a luxury.

Yesterday turned out to be a mess, weather-wise, and this morning everything is slathered with ice and slush. Fortunately there will be lots of sunshine and, later, chicken curry and possibly even some homemade naan--if I can figure out how to roll out the dough without having to depend on our less-than-hygienic temporary countertop.

I also need to find a novel to read . . . perhaps something by an author whose last name begins with T, U, or W.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Last night I fell asleep to the sound of sleet whipping against the bedroom windows, and this morning, as daylight creeps through the low and heavy clouds, I see that the sidewalks and streets and cars and roofs are sugar-coated with a stiff layer of white--not ice, but not exactly snow either; something more like pallid streusel. And now the sleet has returned, to peck at the panes, and dissolve into rivulets that snake down the glass.

I worked hard all day yesterday: at editing, at curriculum prep, at painting. Today will be another such day, under the lamplight, as the grim sky melts into rain. I love these kinds of days, when everything necessary is contained within four walls. When the kettle hiccups and the furnace purrs; when the dishes are clean and the counters are wiped and the bedsheets are chugging in the washing machine. When the books gleam on the shelves and the teacup waits for hot water, and in the distance a train whistle sings. And all I have to do, for hours, is be alone with myself.

Monday, January 22, 2018

In Harmony nearly all of our books were on built-in shelves, so we are severely short of bookcases here at the cottage. But after a weekend of rearrangement, Tom managed to delegate two of them to the dining room, and here is the first batch of books, in disordered splendor. The flowers in the vase are purple hyacinths, not fully open. The color of the walls is Sunny Verandah. The trim is On the Rocks. The floor never got refinished but it could look worse. The cherry table was a wedding present. The chairs have weathered the vicissitudes of a family of boys. The books (left) are mostly Trollope through Updike, with some Faulkner and Wright and Woolf and Wilder mixed in. The books (right) are mostly Tom's art and photography books, with some bird and mushroom guides mixed in. The lamp is old hospital lighting and it came from a junk shop and Tom painted it red. This house will take forever to unpack, given that we seem to possess all the wrong furniture. Perhaps I should start decorating the cardboard boxes.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tom trucked another load of stuff back from storage, so now our house is littered with stacks of LPs and more and more and more boxes of books. I think, however, that we've finally reached the end of the kitchen stuff: I unpacked what I hope is the last box of glassware; I really don't know where I could fit anything else.

So today will be a deal-with-boxes day. Tom has unearthed a single empty bookshelf, and I can begin, I guess, to unload a few books onto it. I still can't decide whether we should call the room we eat in a library or a dining room. For now it's "room full of unorganized fiction, plus some thousand-pound boxes of 78s, plus an island for meals."

This week the temperatures are forecast to rise into the 40s. I know it's only January and we have much wintry weather ahead of us. But I'm beginning to feel the restlessness of spring. I bought a bunch of purple hyacinths yesterday, as a salve. I really should start to think about seed orders.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Well, I'm back at Alcott House, all ready to spend my weekend painting a bathroom door and reading drafts of essays. For the moment, however, I'm sitting in a darkened living room, listening to the clock tick on the mantle and a breeze clack at the loose siding. The cat is staring at squirrels. Tom is sleeping. The government is shut down. I've been fighting a headache for a few days, and I wish I were a little thinner. Thus the first weeks of 2018, with their pettiness and their politics, wind to a close.

But the days are lengthening. I haven't yet heard the chickadee's spring song, but soon, soon. In the woods, nesting owls are dive-bombing unwary cross-country skiiers. Icicles drip from eaves, and dogs roll on sodden patches of bare yard. The washers of kitchen floors growl at the wearers of work boots.

I wonder what spring will be like here. I wonder about my garlic, and those tulip bulbs I planted last fall. I wonder how I should lay out the new beds in the front garden. It is odd to know so little about my land.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I am floating on a small cloud of good fortune . . . nothing major, no big prizes or grants or anything like that. But little things have been falling into place. A question about Frost Place staffing has been settled. I had a lovely coffee visit with my new teaching-artist colleague. I learned that my 10-week essay workshop is filling up, which makes me so happy. I received a class list for my 12-week high school poetry residency and am already charmed by the students, just from their classroom teacher's description of them. My mother-in-law called and sweetly begged me not to drive in the snow. Four people have come to see me at my new house within the past week. The lamplight in the bedroom looks beautiful against the polished floor. Like I said, little things.

Soon I'll be teaching twice a week: high schoolers and adults, poetry and essays. I'll be editing a book of short stories for a university press. I'll be prepping for the Frost Place. All of this makes me feel like an actual working writer. Of course I've spent my adult life as a working writer, but so much of my work was solitary. Being in Portland requires taking off the mask.

In the interstices of this work I'll be cooking meals, and beginning to imagine my garden, and learning to be alive in this new space. My friend, yesterday, walked through the house and mused about a sweetness that seems to rise from it. She's right: there is a sweetness. This is a good place, and I feel an odd sense of mutual gratitude, as if the house is as relieved as I am.

Tomorrow morning, when I climb into my car hours before dawn in order to drive to my early-morning gig, I'll try to hang on to this sense of optimism.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Yesterday's teacher meeting was an utter joy: I am so excited about this poetry residency I'll be co-facilitating this spring. My fellow teaching artist is a delight, the classroom teacher is a delight, and I already know several of the kids from last year's residency. Plus, this year I can walk to work among budding trees and riotous tulips.

For the moment, however, winter is still clutching at us, so today I'll be prepping for my Smith class and hoping that tomorrow's weather report is fake news. I really hate driving in snow. If things look truly terrible, I'll go down early, early on Thursday morning instead--another version of unpleasantness but perhaps a safer one. Anyway, we'll see what transpires.

In the meantime, I need to find something to read. I finished the Ishiguro novel, I'm bored of the New Yorker, and my house is full of boxes of books with no shelves to put them on. I'm loath to do too much unpacking at this point, but I might burrow into one or two and see what I find. Or I might just go to the library and see what accidental volume decides to fall into my hands.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Yes, that is a faucet you see there. Moreover, Tom has hooked it up to both hot and cold water, plus a drain. Though the dishwasher still sits in its box in the living room, we now have basic running water in the kitchen, after two and a half weeks spent ferrying fresh water and waste water back and forth from the bathroom. Plumbing in the kitchen! It's such a luxurious feeling.

Every little thing is going to feel like a miracle. I mean, someday we might even get countertops! And cupboard doors! [Please note: There is zero irony in this post.]

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I spent some time yesterday afternoon (after mopping many, many floors) listening to Rachmaninoff piano concertos, eating bananas, and looking through Uncommon Places, a collection of Stephen Shore's photographs from the 1970s. Today I plan to listen to Parliament, eat Cara Cara oranges, and look through a collection of John Singer Sargent's paintings. In a house with so many art books and LPs lying around shelfless and un-alphabetized, the opportunities are rife for peculiar pairings. Just add fruit, and you've got an event.

This will be a busy week: a teacher meeting tomorrow, and then on Wednesday I leave for a teaching gig in Massachusetts. In between: editing and classroom prep and editing and editing and editing and dealing with whatever house eventuality arises. But I've written two new poems since Christmas--two new poems I like--and I am reading steadily. Creatively I'm feeling a bit like a middle-of-the-road phoenix, somewhat dishevelled and ratty around the tailfeathers, bleary and sneezing among the ashes, and dealing with an awkward stiffness in my wings--but rising, rising nonetheless, in my own awkward way.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Well, there is water in the basement, but it's not coming in from where Tom expected it would, so is that a good thing or a bad thing? Anyway, I'm not going down to look at it till he gets up. Then we can do all of our fretting at one time.

Yesterday's plan for pleasure and accomplishment was a great success, as I wrote a poem draft, read some books, and made a beef stew, boiled potatoes, and salad greens with garlic-anchovy dressing, followed by poached pears with ginger whipped cream. All this with no running water in the kitchen!

But Tom is growing weary of the no-water situation (that is, in the kitchen, as opposed to plenty of water in the basement), so he says he's going to rig up a faucet and a drain this weekend. That will be an exciting development. We also have towel bars in the bathroom. Things are really getting civilized around here.

* * *

Advice to young lovers: Your happiness will increase if one of you is handy.

Friday, January 12, 2018

In preparation for today's forthcoming torrential rains, Tom brought home a portable sump pump, so now I am on basement drain patrol. The plumber (long, long ago, when he once visited our home and pretended he'd be back soon) mentioned that he thought our drainage system is clogged; but given that he hasn't reamed it out for us, let alone done anything else, I'm glad Tom's figured out a backup solution for potential flooding. I'm also hoping I won't be regaling you with stories of water, hoses, and mayhem tomorrow.

For the moment, however, things are peaceable around here. The laundry is churning, and the cat is sleeping, and the tea is hot. The furnace is working beautifully, and ice has stopped falling off the roof. The breakfast dishes are clean, and the dining room is tidy, and the woodbox is full, and the couch pillows are plump, and the floors are swept, and I am standing at my desk in front of my two windows looking out into the gray day. I have a chapter to finish editing this morning, and then I'm going to turn my thoughts to poems. And after a while, after the rains begin, I'll go downstairs and light a fire in the stove, and I'll read an Ishiguro novel and make poached pears and beef stew. I plan to find comfort and joy in this wet day.

And on that note, I turn to the subject of our so-called president, poster boy for Shame and Disgrace. As I prepare my thoughts for the residency I'll be co-teaching this spring, a class devoted to the creative lives of young immigrants, some of whom were born in the nations you libeled as shitholes, I think of their bright smiles, their laughter, their powerful words and open hearts, and I think of you, miserable and unloved, surround by sycophants and self-promoters who use and manipulate you because you are a narcissistic dolt who doesn't know what it feels like to actually have true friends or colleagues. That someone so ignorant should dare to deride the value of these brilliant, hopeful young people. . . . Well, all I can say is, whatever punishment may befall you, in this world or another, you richly deserve it.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Chunks of ice are crashing, sliding, crashing off our back roof, and every time a piece falls the cat jumps like he's been shot. I stepped out the back door this morning into weather that feels like March: 35 degrees and the air dense and damp.

I've started reading Kazuo Ishiguro's novel The Buried Giant and am finishing the last sad pages of Emily Gillespie's diary.

August 16, 1881: . . . I sometimes think of words which different women have told me in my girl-hood--that--"woman is always lovely--untill her strength & beauty fails, then--she is--only in the way"--it seems almost invariably true, yet we will try to say & think--all is well. . . .

November 1, 1882: Tis 20 minutes past nine. [Her daughter] Sarah started at 5 minutes past nine . . . though I grieve that she has gone, I feel tis all right. she wants to do what she can to make money so as to get ready to try to go to College. . . . Yes, they [her children] are both gone. . . . O but I miss their society so much, though if I know they are doing well, I feel better about it. now I must go to work. . . .
March 27, 1883: I finish my night-gown &c. go to Town with [her husband] James. he feels better natured--I am thankful he does. I sometimes think tis a real disease that some people have to have a time every so often, they seem to get so full of some undefinable thing they must explode.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Yesterday I went out for a peaceable zigzag walk through the neighborhood--woods, narrow sidewalks, public library, bill mailing, stamp buying, that sort of thing--and returned home to discover that ice weight had torn the gutter and some siding off the front of the house, with the whole mess dangling over and onto the front stoop so that huge heavy chunks of ice were poised dangerously above the skull of any mailman who should happen to wander by, and thus Tom, tired after a day's labor, had to immediately climb out of his truck and fetch a ladder and patch up the damage in the dark . . . which he did efficiently and without the use of any curse words, and so I just want to say, "Happy birthday to the man who holds everything together, and may nothing fall off the house today and force you to stand under icy roof drip and try to screw torn vinyl siding into rotten soffit boards so that they can create at least a semblance of waterproofness until spring."

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Almost 30 degrees this morning, at 5 a.m. The weather has been so strange. I am sitting on the couch in my red bathrobe, in front of the dark fireplace, listening to the hum of the humidifier and thinking about sunshine. Tom and I discovered that our house is very close to the side entrance of Baxter Woods, and I am looking forward to walking there today in the thawing slush. Baxter Woods is a 30-acre nature preserve, mostly pines and oaks . . . not my 40 acres of Harmony woodland, but something nonetheless. It's sweet to have it around the corner.

I have been prepping for a few upcoming teaching gigs. As I've done for the past couple of years, I'll be leading a January-term session at Smith College that focuses on teaching K-12 poetry. My 10-week essay-writing class for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance begins at the end of this month. Starting in March, I'll be co-leading a 12-week Telling Room poetry residency in a local high school ELL class. I'll also be judging the state Poetry Out Loud competition in March. So much busyness this spring

Today, however, I'll be editing, editing, editing. Gradually my little study is gaining comforts: adequate lighting, for instance, and a chair for the cat so he won't bother me while I'm working.

Someday, I suppose, the plumber will come.

Monday, January 8, 2018

On reading diaries

One's sense of the substance of history is turned inside out. Where one habitually thought of "ordinary lives" forming a vast background to historical "events," now one's vision is of the great events dimly passing behind the immediate realities that comprise an individual's experience. In diary after diary events like the Old Pretender's rebellion in 1715, or the battle of Waterloo a century later, float by like rumours. Indeed, the very notion of an historical "event" becomes obscure and begins to seem like an abstraction, a fantasy. In the foreground is the individual consciousness, absolutely resisting the insistence of future historians that it should experience itself as peripheral.

--from Robert Fothergill, Private Chronicles: A Study of English Diaries

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Eight below this morning, but the winds have died down. Everything outside looks stiff and still in the fading dawn. Inside, the old clock ticks on the mantle; the furnace kicks on; the cat dozes; the coffee cools in its white cup.

I went nowhere yesterday, but today I might venture out for a walk or for errands. I need to do a little painting inside an alcove where Tom wants to set up his stereo. Otherwise, my day is unstructured . . . unless Tom has a plan of action he hasn't shared with me yet.

In and among floor washing and laundry and dusting and pot scouring, I did copy out some Philip Levine poems yesterday. I finished reading a history of our section of Portland, which was once its own city, known as Deering, until it was annexed in the 1880s. I started rereading "A Secret to Be Burried," the diary of Emily Gillespie, who was an unhappy midwestern farm wife during the second half of the nineteenth century. I have also been working my way through Camus's The Stranger, which I last read in high school French class and am now revisiting in translation. Gary Snyder's Turtle Island is sitting on my desk, waiting to be opened. The jumbled nature of these titles reflects the jumbled nature of unpacking. Everything looks so interesting when it's no longer neatly arranged in alphabetical order.

I wonder if we have any chance of getting kitchen plumbing this week?  I wonder if the temperature really will rise into the 40s by Friday?

By the way: I should remind you that I'll be leading a 10-week essay workshop here in Portland starting later this month. I'd love, love, love to see you there.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Six a.m. with a temperature of minus two and falling. When I stepped out the back door with the ash bucket, I could feel the winds beginning to swirl. It will be a brutal day for the squirrels and the chickadees.

Though I've mostly resisted lighting the woodstove until the evenings, this morning I started a fire immediately. It's not rational; the oil burner does a fine job of heating the house, and the stove is too small to do much more than heat the living room. I just crave the sight of the flames.

We still have no kitchen water, but we're managing. Book storage and closet space are conundrums. Eventually the dining room will also be the library, but we don't have enough bookshelves to start unpacking book boxes yet. In Harmony Tom had filled our bedroom-loft with built-ins, but we're seriously lacking infrastructure here. The bedroom has no real closet, so the one in my tiny study has to hold our clothes. Most of the existing closets (such as they are) don't yet have shelves in them. Several of the rooms don't have electrical updates, so we have to be careful about how we use the outlets. Except for the kitchen, the place remains an unfashionable, inconvenient little postwar house and the basement smells like grandparents. But I am so happy to be here, and so is Ruckus.

Today we'll unpack and run errands and sort and clean and do all of the regular people-who-have-just-moved stuff. I also want to do some writing, or at least some poem-copying, if I can. I've had so much editing this week that I haven't been able to snag any private time. On the bright side I did receive offers for two upcoming teaching gigs, so that was good news. Eventually I'll want to get out of the house, though for the moment I feel as if I never want to leave.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Shoveling out from a storm that dropped a foot or so of drifting snow is a great way to meet your neighbors. It also makes everyone jealous of the guy down the street who owns the snowblower. Fortunately, he is aware of his special status and offers to clear the sidewalks of panting strugglers. So far, so good in the residential neighborhood manners department.

After an hour and a half spent clearing snow, hauling trash and recycling, and carrying firewood, I am feeling less fearful about falling into imagined traps of urban complacency. That was hard work before breakfast.

The rest of the day is likely to be more cerebral. Reams of editing await.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Already the winds are picking up, and tiny flakes swirl among the tree trunks and roofs. The sky is low and grim; the streets are empty; the neighbors' cars are hunkered in their driveways.

Tom did go to work this morning, but the shop isn't too far away, and he expects to be home early. I hope so. Portland is under a blizzard warning, with 50 mph gusts and a foot of snow in the forecast.

If we don't lose power, we'll be eating chicken noodle soup tonight. I roasted a chicken yesterday, and my plan is to make fresh broth with the leftovers this afternoon. If we do lose power, then we'll have a chicken and rice salad.

Thank goodness for a woodstove and plenty of firewood; for running water [in the bathroom]; for plenty of provisions and a warm cat.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Liz Taylor would have greeted Richard Burton wearing a slip and a whiskey sour, but I was wearing old leggings and a horrible sweater when Tom walked through the door last night. Nonetheless, I was beaming because, as I immediately told him, "It's your first night home for dinner!"

Dinner was elk chili . . . a pound of ground elk, courtesy of a hunter friend, simmered with ancho peppers and beans and tomatoes and fried cumin and cilantro and lime, and it was spicy and tender and delicious. Cooking in a kitchen without running water turns out to be irritating but manageable, made much easier by the fact that everything else in the room is shiny and beautiful and designed specifically for me as a cook. It feels like the most wonderful love gift: getting a brand-new kitchen from a master carpenter who also happens to be my husband.

Tonight's dinner: roast chicken, probably with a side of roasted rutabaga dice, maybe with some basmati or farro, and then a cucumber salad, or maybe cherry tomatoes, or maybe something else I haven't thought of yet.

Otherwise, today will be an editing day, followed by a bout of unpacking and closet angst and a round of floor cleaning, punctuated by a walk and a spate of firewood hauling. And writing and reading, maybe. Or submitting poems, even. Anything could happen.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I rang in the New Year by staying up for almost 24 hours straight. And I can tell you one thing: I am too old for that kid stuff. But all went well: I did not drive into any trees or fall asleep onstage, and now here I am again, back in the cottage and ready to start my first work week in my new study.

I am also alone in this house for the first time since moving here. The furnace is grumbling comfortably; the dryer is ticking; the refrigerator is humming. Otherwise, the only sounds I hear are my fingers on the keyboard.

I am standing at my desk, looking up at a clean blue wall, looking peripherally at snowy gardens and fences and sheds and roofs and the thick ridged trunks of enormous old maples. In a moment I will say goodbye to you and do some editing, but I am loath to stop lingering here. It just feels so good to be alone in my quiet room, writing whatever words I choose to write. It feels so good to know that later I will go out for a walk in my new neighborhood, and then I'll unpack some boxes, and then I'll venture out for groceries, and then Tom will come home, and I will light a fire in the wood stove, and cook our dinner on the new range, and we will listen to music and complain about not having enough closets and laugh about how charming the tiny brass frog looks in its new home on the range hood.

Here are two more in-process photographs . . . first, the island of civilization--a dinner table--in the midst of chaos (seven unpainted doors, a vacuum cleaner without a home, old plywood shelves waiting to be lugged to the basement, plastic containers full of who-knows-what. . . . )

This is a not very good photo of the refrigerator and the pantry, and pardon the banality of the subject matter, but I am thrilled to have a place where I can see all of the food in the house without crawling on my hands and knees to poke around in the back of cupboards or balancing on a step-stool to dig out whatever might be behind the stuff in front. Also, notice that Tom has made a recess for the refrigerator so it is not sticking out into the room like a snorting behemoth and getting in the way of everything else.