Saturday, March 31, 2018

Thanks to the insomnia troll, here I sit in the dark, stupidly drinking black coffee at 4:30 on a Saturday morning. Only the cat is pleased about this.

Through the windows I see rainwater glittering on the cars and the pavement. Yesterday I walked coatless and damp all around town: up and down busy wet Congress Street, in and out of crowded markets and the bank. It felt like the first true day of spring. Today there will be sun, and I have high hopes for my radish seeds. This is just the sort of weather that convinces them to burst.

Still, despite these cheering thoughts, I'd rather be asleep now.

Yesterday I worked a bit on my laundry essay; I did some classwork; I spent an hour at the library talking to a young woman about her hopes and dreams and fears. I read The Maltese Falcon and marveled at the evanescence of slang. I thought about the poems of Anna Akhmatova. I lugged home bags of groceries. I arranged tulips in vases. I cooked chicken and peppers and crushed up avocados into guacamole. I listened to David Price pitch a good game for the Red Sox and comfortably ignored/intersected/overlapped/engaged with Tom, as the whim took us. All the while, my thoughts kept turning back to the young woman in the library . . . not just her but the other people who trickle in and out of that writing project. My tame and modest days are the days that some of them desperately desire, that others desperately flee, that still others cannot conceive of as a possibility. Once a week I finish up my conversations with them and return home to this plain life--to what a friend labeled yesterday, with a certain amused irony, as my wholesome life. What an outdated, even embarrassing, word wholesome is: connotations of cheese and lettuce sandwiches on brown bread, and going to bed early, and washing dishes, and sewing on buttons, and packing lunchboxes, and going for walks along suburban streets, and reading old Dashiell Hammett novels because the slang is enjoyable.

When I was a teenager, I was constantly humiliated by my boringness. Or what I perceived as my boringness. At the same time I was obsessed by my obsessions. Now, in my early fifties, I am demonstrably the same person, but with fewer stabs of shame. Though shame never disappears.

Friday, March 30, 2018

They didn't bring me a letter today:
He forgot, or went on one of his trips;
Spring's the trill of silver laughing on the lips,
I see the boats in the harbor sway.
They didn't bring me a letter today . . .
This is the first stanza of a brief untitled Anna Akhmatova poem dated 1911. The translator of this version is Lyn Coffin, and I am currently waiting for two other translations to arrive: one by Jane Kenyon, the other by Judith Hemschemeyer.

I think what I love above all about Akhmatova's poems is the way in which so many of them live simultaneously in her terrible Stalinist present and in the timelessness of fairy tales. They are so extraordinary in their mythical geography and their medieval cadence, in the way in which the characters reflect both the speaking twentieth-century narrator and the ancient storytelling voices of poets such as Marie de France and Christine de Pisan. Here, for instance, is one of Christine's 14th-century lyrics:
It is a month today
Since my lover went away.
My heart remains gloomy and silent;
It is a month today.
"Farewell," he said, "I am leaving."
Since then he speaks to me no more.
It is a month today.
The two poets are not only telling the same tale but offering it to us in a similar mode: both speak directly of their loneliness, of being caught in a web of waiting, but both also accept that role. Their task is to long for their lover and to be patient. Whether or not the lover returns is immaterial to this narrative. The waiting is all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

This afternoon I'll be teaching a class, and then I'll be driving north for practice. These days I can make it all the way to Piscataquis County before dark, which is good because the central Maine asphalt roads are a hideous collation of frost heaves. But they're passable, at least. The gravel roads are morasses of mud and ruts, and I'll probably be walking a half mile under the stars in order to get to bed tonight.

Here in Portland, snow clings to north-facing yards and shady corners. My front garden is one of the few that is entirely clear. Juncos and woodpeckers flit among the trees, and I am waiting impatiently for the crocuses to bloom.

I am kind of dreading Easter, though. I have no plans, no children to cook for. I need to find a way to distract myself from all the things I won't be doing: coloring eggs, baking hot cross buns, filling baskets. For some reason, the hole seems large this year.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Yesterday evening, before dark, I walked around Back Cove with a friend whom I've loved since she was three, and we talked about men and politics and ducks and parents and movies and how terrifying a screaming rabbit sounds at night in the woods. Every few weeks this friend texts me and asks me to go for a walk with her, and I can't tell you how much pleasure that gives me. Just being sought out by a young person: it is sweet to me, in this era of loneliness for my boys.

From my study window, I can see the tips of lilies sprouting in a neighbor's yard. From the bedroom window, I glimpse the swelling buds of another neighbor's lilac. I wish my backyard could give them an equivalent hopefulness, but it remains blank and ugly.

I am listening to Tom fry an egg in the kitchen. Beside him, the radio news drones on and on, like a single-minded eel slipping through a river of garbage. And now Tom turns off the radio, and the sudden gap of silence fills with the dim roar of morning traffic and, closer, a sparrow chirping among the local maples.

The blue walls of my study reflect a chill and watery light, a pale north-facing dawn. At random I open the poems of Anna Ahkmatova, and she tells me:
The souls of all my loved ones are on high stars.
It's good there's no one left to lose,
And I can cry. The air in this town of the tsars
Was made to repeat songs, no matter whose.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The week is dawning like spring . . . bright and cool and with the hope of warmth. Yesterday morning I turned over a new small garden bed, and I may get a chance to start digging up another one this afternoon, after I do my time at the editorial desk. I love these longer days, when the light stretches into the evening and I can linger outside after work instead of hunkering down beside a lamp. We don't yet have a deck or patio or any kind of outdoor living space, only a bare-dirt backyard piled with old siding and tree branches. I don't expect we'll construct much back there this year, but the moss is beginning to return now that the place is dog-free, so that is a sign of recovery. And I've bought some shade-loving wildflower seeds to scatter in the corners.

I've been reading Graham Greene's Travels with My Aunt, still studying the clothing and housework histories, but for some reason not spending much time with poems lately. I will correct that.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Yesterday I gardened.

I raked out the tulip beds beside the front door and discovered that some previous owner had planted hyacinths.

In the bed along the side of the house (e.g., the weed patch I reamed out last fall), I uncovered my garlic; dealt with some damage the electricians had done when they were installing a new meter; and then prepped and planted a few short rows of radishes, spinach, dill, cilantro, lettuce, and arugula.

In the new big bed (half the front yard), I covered the turned-over sod with the leaves I'd raked off the other beds, and then I ordered a truckload of composted soil, which will be delivered, I hope, at some point this week. That new soil, over the layer of leaves and sod, should make a decent base for a first-year planting.

Of course, I still have the other half of the front yard to think about. And the packed-dirt back yard. And the mess along the stone wall.

After gardening, Tom and I went for a long walk in the neighborhood, and then we drove to a friend's beautiful poetry reading in Cape Elizabeth, and then, on the way back, we stopped for a walk along the Western Prom and goggled at the mansions and their industrial view of oil tanks and container ships and interstate traffic and landing airplanes. I daresay that was not exactly what the lumber barons and shipping magnates had planned when they commissioned those houses.

And then we came home and ate macaroni with bacon and listened to a basketball game on the radio.

That's one thing about living in town: you can do all of these things in the same day without dying of exhaustion or spending every interstice in the car. But I am still missing my Harmony crocuses.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

I have been volunteering on Friday afternoons in a community writing project that serves people who are dealing with issues of homelessness. Generally between three and five people show up each week at our room in the public library, sometimes fewer. I am one of three writer-volunteers at these sessions, and with those numbers it has worked well for us to match up in pairs or threes and take part in individual conversations with participants.

Yesterday, however, one of our regulars appeared with about eight people in tow. He'd convinced them all that they ought to come share their stories, that they ought to write with us, and the sudden influx of new faces was overwhelming. They were uneasy, and we were uneasy too. I was particularly jangled because I'd planned to introduce a small poetry prompt to one or two people, and now I had a roomful of strangers whom I didn't yet know how to read.

There were introductions, and it was clear that the new group members ran the gambit from bitter young person, to ex-felon, to shell-shocked refugee, to grieving parent . . . the confusion and misery and anxiety were palpable, but so was the bravery they'd called on in order to enter into this strange scenario.

Still, here I was stuck with having to speak to everyone about poems, and there is no one who is more nervous about poetry than a poet.

So I introduced a tiny prose poem by the Burundian poet Ketty Nivyabandi, a poem about being homesick. It describes, vividly and economically, a city street scene . . . a street very different from a Portland one yet recognizable too. And then I suggested that they write their own descriptions of a street they knew well: perhaps one they see every day, perhaps one they recall from another time in their lives. I mentioned that, if they got stuck, they could add a word such as on, in, above, below, across, because those can be good triggers for helping a writer add details about a place.

And then every one of them sat quietly and wrote.

What they shared afterward was stunning in its beauty, and its individuality, and its emotional resonance. As they listened to each other's pieces, I could see that they, too, were stunned: by their own creations and by the words of their colleagues. I know that the three writer-volunteers were barely breathing. At this moment everyone in that room recognized that the act of reading and writing a poem can change the course of a life . . . not permanently, not alone--I don't want to exaggerate here--but the communal bond was powerful in a way that I am unable to describe.

I don't know if any of these people will manage to come back next week. Given the chaos of their lives, that alone would be a miracle of sorts. But they have intentions to try again; they have a sliver of confidence that they may, indeed, reappear. They carefully wrote down the time and place; they tried to give themselves an assignment to do it again. And they were not anxious when they left. They were smiling and tearful, in ways that I have seen at the Frost Place. They felt the power of themselves as a cadre: one with deep feelings and vital memories.

For the writer-volunteers, I think this was an afternoon of both humility and wonder. I, at least, felt as if I had done nothing except open the space and remove myself to its edges. The small poem did the work.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Yesterday evening my essay class talked about Twain, and narrative voice, and the importance of friction as a driver of the personal essay. And then I drove home and sat on the couch and watched Loyola Chicago squeak out a win over Nevada. This morning I'll do some more work for the essay class, and then go to a meeting where I'll prep for a different class, and then lead a poetry session for the community writing project I've been volunteering for. It's so interesting to be immersed in these three different situations: a circle of experienced adult writers, a class of immigrant high school students, a fluctuating group of people who've been dealing with homelessness.

The thing about this kind of peripatetic teaching: it's a way to listen to what I don't know . . . about other people, about myself. It suits my state of mind. And I wouldn't have gotten a chance to take part in any of these projects if I hadn't moved to Portland. So I try to keep that in mind when I fret over my writing drought and mourn the loss of those crocuses breaking through the crust of my Harmony snow.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Well, I was a baby and begged off band practice last night. This morning I feel less cowardly, given the thickness of the flakes and the travel warnings on the turnpike. I'm sure all of the guys in my band would have barreled on through, but I can get so anxious when driving, even in beautiful weather. If necessary, I can persevere, but I do feel a whole lot happier when I'm not on an interstate in snow.

As a result, here I remain in Portland, non-anxiously watching the fat flakes drift and swirl in the stiff breeze. Yesterday, during an activity with my high school class, I was so happy to suddenly receive a tiny, bare-bones poem trigger for myself. I've occasionally received those triggers while teaching in other situations, yet I'm always surprised. After so many years of being a solitary writer, it feels strange to experience that surge in a busy public setting. But in this era of drought I snatch at whatever I can get.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We have another storm on the way, though this one will only clip Maine--meaning that we'll get a couple of inches instead of a couple of feet. Still, I'm supposed to be driving north for band practice this evening and then driving back home tomorrow morning, and I do not want to travel for all of those hours in any amount of snow. So I may chicken out and stay here.

I got back from my Poetry Out Loud gig around 7 last night, to find Tom whipping up a glorious and weighty meal of parmesan-breaded chicken breasts and scalloped potatoes. It was enjoyable, for a change, to be the one coming home late to a bright kitchen.

Today I'll be prepping for band practice and then teaching a high school class and then, ostensibly, girding my loins and driving north. I wish I didn't have such a sinking feeling about the weather.

My class should be fun, though. One of the kids at the high school won the state Poetry Out Loud competition, and I expect his friends will be giddy about it. I don't know this young man personally, of course (otherwise I wouldn't have been a judge), but he was impressive onstage, combining an old-fashioned sensibility (he chose to memorize poems by Du Bois, Byron, and Stephen Crane) with a compelling physicality. And he's an immigrant, which also makes me proud.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

From my study window I can glimpse, through the bristle of roofs and fences, a freight train slowly rolling through the neighborhood. It is strange to live so close to the tracks. I wonder if we are on the right side or the wrong.

Yesterday evening, as the chicken and rice soup simmered, I lit a fire in the woodstove, sat myself on the couch with a cup of coffee, and instructed myself to write. And oddly enough that bossiness worked: my housework essay underwent a sudden burst of progress. While nowhere close to finished, it now seems to have a more purposeful arc, and I am slowly figuring out how to insert my narrative voice and an imagined third-person character in and among the historical details. But slowly remains the operative word. Writing this essay is like wading through molasses.

[FYI, the soup was magnificent. First, I made broth (a half-dozen unpeeled garlic cloves, half an onion, a carrot, a pinch of dried sage, and two dried hot peppers, boiled it up for an hour and then sieved and pressed out the solids); added diced potatoes, carrots, and chicken breast and simmered for half an hour; added a cup of leftover cooked basmati rice and a handful of spinach and heated through; added, off heat, a maceration of fresh basil leaves, diced fresh tomato, minced garlic, fruity olive oil, and grated parmesan. Served with a toasted baguette and a salad of sliced radishes, capers, pecans, and greens.]

Monday, March 19, 2018

This week I am back to busyness. With no snowstorms in sight, I'll be heading to Waterville for the Poetry Out Loud finals tomorrow, then teaching on Wednesday afternoon, then driving north for band practice on Wednesday night, then rushing home on Thursday for class prep, and then teaching again on Thursday night. I suppose this is how regular people live, but it seems like a lot of uproar to a homebody.

Thus, today I will wash sheets and clean the oven. In the meantime, I will also think about mothers and sons. Last Friday, as I was talking to the men who showed up for the community writing session, I understood how ubiquitous that link can be. A young man from the American South; an older man from the Democratic Republic of Congo: both spoke yearningly of their mothers, as if there, in that connection, lay the soul of their loves and troubles. I, the mother of sons, could not help but worry and rejoice and worry. I do not know the future of my own tremulous link, only that it will continue to vibrate. Every day I miss the presence of their bodies in my empty rooms; their laughter, their huffy complaints, their outrage and their patience. And then the phone rings, and I answer, and even through the crackling ether, I feel our line trembling again.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

It's 10 degrees in Portland this morning, and the furnace is sighing and groaning in a January state of mind. Yet the sunlight speaks of spring. I am sitting here on the couch thinking of making more coffee and of eating breakfast, but mostly enjoying doing neither of those things. Yesterday we ran a few hardware-store errands, watched a little basketball, walked out after dark for dinner and beer. And now we have an unstructured Sunday ahead of us.

This sunlight is making me long for the garden, but there's no chance of that. Fortunately I have some store-bought daffodils for comfort, and the yellow looks lovely against the grey walls. Here, in the following sloppy photo, you can see the old stone jar and the top of my granddad's Victrola (don't worry; the stripe on the left is just sunshine), which was in the western Pennsylvania farmhouse he bought in 1969, when I was five years old: the place I have written of so often--where all the furnishings were redolent of 1910, and everything was faded and dusty and cheap and inconvenient and ugly, and fated to become more so over the years . . . and yet I loved it so much, even more than my Harmony land.

I think I will have to write about it again. I feel it looming over my housework essay, though I thought, with my Millbank piece, I might have managed to say what needed to be said about the place and its stuff.

Still, it comes back to me, year after year, decade after decade. The place is woven into my synapses and does not forsake me.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

I've spent the past two weekends on the road, so I am very pleased to be going nowhere today. But there will be no gardening. Though the sun is shining  brightly, the temperature has dropped precipitously, and I do hope my exposed tulip shoots will weather the cold snap. Mostly the yard is still covered with snow, but a large patch of south-facing front garden has reverted to bare ground, thanks to reflected house heat and a dryer vent, and it's given my bulbs a perhaps too-enthusiastic start. It's a good thing they're tough.

Still, I'm going to think about gardening. I've almost finished filling out my seed order, and today I'm hoping to reorganize the tool shed so I can squeeze my wheelbarrow out from behind Tom's lumber pile. Inside, I'd like to solve our window blind problem. I'm hoping we'll get the freshly painted guest-room door installed.

Little by little this place pulls itself together. Someday we might even get the dishwasher out of the living room.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Last night I came back from class so happy. These essay revisions that my students have submitted are good. It is wonderful how much their confidence and control have advanced since their first drafts, and I feel all the joy of a proud teacher . . . though I didn't do any more than create a space for us to think out loud about what they were doing and trying to do.

And then Tom and I sat on the couch and ate mangos and watched a ridiculous Clint Eastwood spaghetti western, and meanwhile my son texted me nonstop about our NCAA bracket competition, which, believe it or not, I am winning. So all in all, it was an enjoyable Thursday night.

This morning I'll be doing class prep and hammering away at my own essay, and then this afternoon I'll go into town to work with whomever shows up for support at the volunteer writing project. And then I think I'll be sitting on the couch watching basketball. It appears to be my motherly duty.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

It appears, for a change, that I might actually get to teach a class tonight. And if you want to pretend you're there with me, you can read the essay we'll be discussing: E. B. White's Death of a Pig, one of the finest considerations of the human-animal relationship ever written. I'll be rereading it myself this morning, here in my little blue room, sitting in my yellow armchair beside the window, lifting my head now and then to gaze out over snowy fences and toolsheds and packs of self-satisfied squirrels.

Speaking of self-satisfied, today is Ruckus's fifth birthday, and so far that fathead has celebrated by clawing up the couch and threatening to drink paint water. Once he ate a tack, just to see what I would do. And yet here he is: enthusiastically healthy and as vain as a Kardashian. Apparently if you're a cat, it's excellent luck to be born on the ides of March.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Well, we got some snow: 16 inches so far (according to reports), and it's still coming down. My high school poetry class has been canceled for the second week in a row, the Poetry Out Loud state finals that I was supposed to judge today have been postponed till next week. I guess I'll be cleaning bathrooms and painting a door--and shoveling--instead.

But let's not talk about that. Let's talk about Pennsylvania House District 18! This is Chestnut Ridge country. The town of Scottdale, which features prominently in my poetry collection, is located in Westmoreland County, which went heavily for Trump in the presidential election. And while it remains the most conservative section of the district, the fact that this election is currently too close to call--and that the Democrat is ahead--is exceptionally good news.

According to what I have read, the Republican candidate has made a couple of big mistakes (in addition to being associated with Cadet Bone Spurs). First, he's been loudly anti-union in a very pro-union district. Within the long and fraught history of the steel and coal industries in the region, there has been an equally well-established and active union culture among regular working folks, and they don't care to risk losing that voice. Second, he paid little public heed to the opioid epidemic, which is devastating a generation of rural and Rust Belt citizens.

Even if the Democrat loses this race, it's clear that Trump and his cronies cannot automatically count on the support of voters like those in Westmoreland County. The times, thank God, may be a-changin'.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

No storm yet, just BLIZZARD WARNING splashed on the weather reports and an ominous thickening of the air.

But the pantry is full, and the house is warm, and I have plenty of stuff to do inside: editing, housework, baking, reading. I suspect this may be a "light a fire in the stove and work on my essay in front of it" afternoon . . . before I bundle up and go out to shovel open the driveway so Tom can get his truck into it.

I realized I forgot to tell you about the diamond miner: he is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and worked as a foreman on a mining crew--though in this case mining sounds more like dredging, as what he was describing involved sieving diamonds up from a riverbed. He had a lot to say about the horrors of war and politics and being caught up in all of that, but he also had a lot to say about how hard it is to work in a region filled with monkeys and chimps. Every time you set down your gloves, for instance, monkeys snatch them up and run away with them. He said the men would look up into the trees and see chimps wearing their shorts. These are not problems that I have ever had.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Lots and lots of people showed up to ski on Saturday, so our gig was bustling. And then I drove home Sunday morning, and Tom and I went for a 4-mile walk around Back Cove and its assorted streets. Already the cove is filling with birds, and I am excited to see what happens there once the spring migration begins in earnest. It's clearly a stopping place for shorebirds in transition, and I look forward to a glimpse into the mysteries of dowitchers and grebes. After all these years in the woods, I'm not really that familiar with the varieties of shorebirds.

Saturday night, as I was talking with my friends in Wellington about some goofy thing this guy that Tom works with did with ratchet straps, bald tires, and a snow-covered Portland Street, I suddenly said, "The central Maine diaspora! That's what we are!" My friends laughed, but I felt so much better. Finally I had a label for myself: I'm still from there; my thoughts and reactions are linked to that place; but here I am, trying to work out a way to be in this other situation.

In other words, I'm the person who starts digging up her front yard, by hand, in March, just before the giant snowstorms hit. No time can be wasted.

And we've got another storm on the way, all ready to disrupt my Poetry Out Loud gig on Wednesday and possibly cancel my classes again and definitely require us to shovel 18 inches of concrete-heavy glop out of our driveway again. Blah. But I am loving the time change--yesterday's long bright evening was tonic.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Just a quick note this morning, as I must rush off to the north for a daytime gig at the ski slopes in Greenville. But I wanted to let you New Hampshire-area Frost Place friends know that I've been invited to read with two FP faculty alums--Meg Kearney and Jeffrey Harrison--at the Community Church in Durham on Sunday, April 29, probably in the midafternoon. You all should carpool down!

And now I must shower, and pack an overnight bag, and collect my violin, and leap into the driver's seat of Tina the Trusty Little Subaru, and chug north to the future. Talk to you on Monday.

P.S. Remind me to tell you about the diamond miner I met on Friday. . . .

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sunshine on snow this morning. For the moment, the world is stiff and bright and heavy, but already chunks are sliding off branches and roofs, and soon everything will be dripping and sodden. Yesterday's snow was a classic spring storm, fat-flaked and wet, and shoveling it was like shoveling bricks. But underneath that weight, my tulips and daffodils and grape hyacinths and garlic shoots are blithely growing. By Sunday afternoon, I could be back to digging up the front yard.

First, however, I have to play at that Saturday apres-ski party in Greenville. There's no relief from winter yet.

For the past few days I've been reading a stack of books, switching back and forth among them, carrying them around the house and setting them down in mysterious places such as on top of the flour bin (why?), losing track of my bookmarks and accidentally skipping ahead or rereading what I've already read. I'm still browsing through the collection of clothing photographs and the history of housework. I'm also reading Baron Wormser's Tom o'Vietnam and Mary Norton's The Borrowers, which make a very strange pairing. I'm having a hard time figuring out what all these books are saying to each other, but I suppose it will come clear in time.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

. . . and now both of this week's classes have been canceled.

The snow is still falling, but it's hard to see how much we've gotten because the window screens are plastered with windblown blobs. I guess I'll be staying home today, and editing and working on my essay and making bread and fish chowder--and shoveling.

One thing about this little house: we don't hear the gales like we did in the apartment or even in Harmony. The windows are tighter, and the site is more protected. That's good on the whole, though I do love the sound of a wailing wind.

I got quite a bit done yesterday on the essay, and hope to accomplish more today. I still can't say that words are pouring out easily, but they are appearing. Still, I am having the worst time with my verb tenses. Present or past, present or past: clearly my brain doesn't know which way to turn.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

After a sweet interlude of friend-visiting yesterday evening, I'm now waking up in grim pre-snow Portland with a list of morning errands to run and then an afternoon class to teach and a sensation that all of this planning could be moot if they sky decides to dump its load earlier than scheduled. Last night's chatter was tonic: three mostly solitary writers eating grilled-cheese sandwiches, and our conversation shooting off on this-or-that tangent, and probably all of us feeling odd about talking at all. But feeling good, too, I think.

And then I came home to find Tom under the couch blanket watching The Thirty-Nine Steps. So that was good also.

And my writer evening reminded me that my housework research is actually interesting.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Today is our last day of pretend spring; tomorrow winter will jump out from behind the rosebushes and bean us over the head with a shovel. Apparently we're supposed to get up to 18 inches of snow plus wind, and all of the northern writers who are trying to fly to Tampa for AWP are having Facebook meltdowns, but those of us who are scheduled to play apres-ski parties on Saturday at ski areas that were about to close for lack of snow are, like, "Well, I guess we still have a gig."

Not that I'm complaining about pretend spring. So far I've dug up about a third of the front lawn, which is an amazing accomplishment so early in the year. The snow may annoyingly require us to disinter cars and driveway and sidewalk, but it won't do anything worse than water those new daffodil and tulip sprouts. The temperature is mild, and the earth is thawed and ready, and I will spend the snow day browsing through seed catalogs.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Saturday night's gig turned out to be wonderful--a warm, easygoing, affectionate, elegiac show involving multiple musicians and combinations . . . lots of hanging out with people I've known for a long a time, plus the pleasure of meeting new people in an environment of friendly seriousness--by which I mean we all took our performances seriously but without any sort of bustling aggressive "I'm better than you" crap.

But I was completely exhausted when I got home, and ended up lying on the couch dozing and reading the New Yorker for much of the afternoon, until finally I pitchforked myself up and outside and starting digging up the front lawn.

Eventually the whole lawn will be under cultivation, but first I have to turn over all of the sod. After a year without a garden my digging muscles are somewhat atrophied, so I'm trying to take it slow. But the ground, even this early in March, is completely thawed, and the soil has few rocks and roots--unlike my Harmony garden, which year after year erupted in brand-new boulders. This morning I woke up to discover that the fresh patch of soil is now coated in snow, but that doesn't matter as I won't be planting anything for several weeks yet. The task now is to see how much of this space I can spade before I need to turn my thoughts to seeds.

Here's a photo looking down the street, away from my house. I realize it probably just looks like a patch of dirt to you, but to me it feels like so much more.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The wind is still blowing, but not as a gale anymore. We never did get too much rain here, though I think the high seas did create flooding along the coast and its associated rivers.

Yesterday I breasted the wind and went downtown to the library for my second mentoring session with the community writing project I'm volunteering with, the one I told you about last week, that focuses on people who are dealing with homelessness. This week I worked individually with one of the young men I'd met last Friday. And I think it went well; I think it went really well. The two of us are developing comfort with one another, and he is a compelling storyteller. But I came home filled with such a deep and inarticulate sorrow. The world is so full of bright smiles and sad eyes.

Anyway, today I'm on the road again: first southbound to help Tom fetch home the truck he just bought to replace his jalopy; then northbound for tonight's gig in Sangerville. I'll let you know how it all goes.

Friday, March 2, 2018

I came home from my travels yesterday morning and immediately got into bed and went to sleep, which is something I never do. And now I have a headache that won't quit. Ugh.

However, I did manage to accomplish all tasks, and today will be a bit slower--no long-distance driving and late nights, anyway. And yesterday, on the first day of March, I raked my gardens and discovered that my daffodils and tulips and garlic and chives are sprouting. Walking to class on Wednesday afternoon, I saw a yard full of snowdrops. Flowers that bloom in February! I need to plant some of those for next year.

Today will be wind and rain and wind and rain. I have some classwork to do, some editing to do. I'll slosh downtown to volunteer again with the guys at the library. I've got to practice singing Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" for tomorrow's show. I've got to figure out something for dinner.

And now the wind is picking up, and rain is beginning to spatter on the panes. I am sitting in the dark living room, and from the window I can see enormous bare boughs, a clutch of roofs, and, beyond them, a steeple and its cross silhouetted gray against gray. Overhead, gulls sweep toward the invisible bay. Last night I dreamed I was in Harmony again. The night before I was up north but dreamed I was here. My subconscious is a muddle.