Friday, April 30, 2021

Last night's poetry reading was little but sweet, and then I emerged from my zoom cave to find Paul frying up a gorgeous meal of Sichuan shrimp, while Tom was hanging out in the kitchen meal-coaching and listening to baseball and chit-chatting about movies and such. Meanwhile, a slow rain fell and fell--a long and quiet rain that continues to fall this morning.

So, today: Hauling trash cans to the curb in the rain. An exercise class. A phone call with my sister. Editing. Grocery shopping in the rain. I happen to have bought a new raincoat last week. Just in time, apparently.

Yesterday I finished rereading Bronte's Shirley so now I'm going to read a novel Paul recommends: Tommy Orange's There There. And of course the Odyssey goes on and on. 

I dream of writing poems, but when?

Thursday, April 29, 2021

I've got a piece out in the just-released edition of the Beltway Poetry Quarterly--my long poem "Rules for the Direction of the Maid," which  reworks Descartes's "Rules for the Direction of the Mind" into a sardonic treatise about class and adultery. I will be the first to say that this is a very odd poem, and not much like most of what I write, but I'm kind of fond of it nonetheless. And I'm really grateful to the Beltway editors for inviting me to contribute.

All night a gentle rain fell, and now, under the early cloud shadows, the neighborhood throbs with soft-focus color--fluffy greens and pinks and lavenders--and the trees are spangled with vegetable ruffles and ribbons, all gussied up in high Victorian style.

Paul spent yesterday joyfully planning his summer--working out an itinerary for his three-week road trip into the West with his brother, coaxing me into taking a trip with him to NYC midsummer to help him rent an apartment. I can't tell you how good it feels to see him revved up and happy, after this long dead year.

He baked a honey cake while I edited, and then we rode bikes in the afternoon, bumbling slowly through the streets of someone else's neighborhood, where I managed to chug up all of the hills without stopping, so I was quite proud. And then Tom came home, and then I had a zoom visit with Meg, and then we reconvened and hung out in the kitchen and listened to the Red Sox actually beat the Mets' pitching ace, Jacob DeGrom, who's ridiculously good--a Hall-of-Famer for sure.

So it was a good day, despite some extended-family frets, despite my slow editing progress, despite my lack of writing time, despite how gray my hair is getting.

Today, in addition to regular stuff, I need (I think) to prep for a reading, which I'm giving this evening for the Connecticut chapter of the National Council of Teachers of English. I think it's open just to conference participants, but I may be wrong; if so, I'll leave a link here later in the day, in case you're interested. I think I'll be reading with the fine poet and teacher Terry Blackhawk. But as you can see from the number of "I thinks" I haven't gotten much info as of yet. . . .

Update: Poetry reading is apparently open to all: 7-8 p.m. I'll be appearing alongside the wonderful Terry Blackhawk. Send me a message via the comment function in the sidebar if you'd like the zoom link--

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

It's supposed to be rainy for the next few days, but I'm having a hard time telling whether that means occasional drizzle or actual measurable precipitation. We need the water, so I'm hoping for downpours, though yesterday's soft weather was lovely, and I'll miss it. The evening was so mild that Tom and I played cribbage outside in the gloaming, and I left the windows open till bedtime.

My days trundle on: exercise class/editing editing editing/cooking and laundry. Yesterday afternoon Paul and I did go for a meandering bike ride together, and maybe a hiccup in the forecast will let us go out today as well. Or maybe we'll be staring out the window into the wet.

I'm slightly blue today: a bit of extended-family uproar, worries about friends, a sudden sense of being invisible in my profession . . . this last is not something that usually bothers me, but now and again I feel a pang. 

Now, though, the rain is beginning to patter against the panes. I will pour myself another cup of coffee, and I will walk through the darkened downstairs rooms and put them to rights: straighten pillows, pick up dishes, push in chairs, stack books, change table linen, open shades . . . the little tidy routines of daybreak: realigning the sticks in the nest, soothing my jangled eye, offering myself a small and very local sense of purpose. I am the person who folds the blanket. I am the person who washes it. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Yesterday was sunny and bright, though the air was chillier than I expected. But today should be mild, and then we've got warmish showers forecast for the rest of the week . . . a good thing, as I have so many new plants in the ground.

Meanwhile, Paul entertained himself in his retirement by shaving his beard into a Thurman Munson-style mustache. Then he vacuumed the entire house and picked out a David Mamet film (House of Games) for the three of us to watch over dinner. He distracts me 100 percent of the time, but I'll sure miss him when he goes.

Today I'll continue plodding through my editing project. I wish I could figure out how to work faster. Along the edges, I'm still reading the Odyssey and Shirley, still not finding much space to write. We're creeping toward May, and I should start planting warmer-weather things: dahlias and sunflower and nasturtiums. Maybe I'll get to that this afternoon.

In Ithaca, there are no fields or racetracks.

Though it is only fit for goats, we love it

more than horse pasture.

--from the Odyssey

Monday, April 26, 2021

I have a new poem up this morning at Vox Populi: "Senior Photo: 1982." And what else is new? I don't know . . . let's see: I invented a quick spaghetti dish with garlic, ramps, preserved lemon, and a pound of diced haddock that turned out to be absolutely delicious. I went for a bike ride and saw this egret eating frogs in a pond:

I took this charming photo of sleepy Ruckus hugging his boy:

I lay on the couch in front of a wood fire and read the Odyssey and listened to baseball. And I did not do any housework.

Ergo, today will be full of duties: core class and editing and bathrooms and such, though refreshed by a phone visit with Teresa to chatter about Homer.

The forecast says "sunny and breezy." We do get a lot of wind, down here in the small northern city by the sea. The tulips are in high bloom; fancy late-opening narcissi are replacing the early plain yellow daffs. Trout lilies fill the back yard, and today I might find enough dandelion greens for Tom's favorite spring salad. The quince I share with my neighbor is getting ready to flower, and miniature lilacs are forming. I might try to go for another bike ride again: I'm trying to work myself into better hill shape, and I'm getting there, slowly and puffingly.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Yesterday was glorious: pure blue skies, and sunshine, and bare shoulders, and our first big bowl of spring salad greens, and reading Victorian novels in a hammock, and cooking dinner outside. Today will be cooler and cloudier and eventually rainier, but it will still be springlike, and I will still be dredging up delight. I do love spring.

The boys are planning a canoe daytrip for us, maybe for next weekend, into remote Brownfield Bog in western Maine. We need to get there before the black flies come out, so it will have to be soon. The canoe guide describes the bog as "a floodplain of the Saco River" filled with "lush vegetation. The thick bushes, reeds, and grasses make this wetland feel untouched. Wildlife like moose, deer, and Maine's large cats easily find camouflage in the thick foliage. While observing various waterbirds and looking for otters, paddlers may find themselves being watched." We are quite anxious to look for otters and to find ourselves being watched. Also there are supposed to be glimpses of the White Mountains, and that will give me a homey Frost Place feeling.

Today: I don't know what I'll be up to. The usual housework, I suppose. Reading books. Figuring out something to make for dinner. Maybe going to the grocery store. Undoubtedly weeding another thousand maple seedlings out of the gardens.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Saturday, with a forecast for sunshine and 70 degrees . . . the weather certainly has had its mood swings this week. But spring must be here for real because my allergies are terrible. 

Yesterday I finished a chunk of editing and caught up on Frost Place paperwork, and then did some planting and weeding and mowing, though I never made any of the fancy desserts I was considering. Instead, we decided to order take-out sushi and dumplings and ramen, and then we played cards, and listened to baseball, and Paul and Tom started planning a canoe outing, and I washed dishes and imagined being home alone for an entire day.

Today I need to finish book 4 of the Odyssey, but otherwise who knows? The house is full, all of the time now. I never have even a moment alone, except for these early mornings when the boys are still asleep. Otherwise, there's always clomping and talking; somebody else's music is always playing; a voice shouts sports news at me through the bathroom door . . . Do not think I am complaining about my happy family life. But with no space of my own, in a very small house, in the midst of friendly uproar: I do get tired, and I struggle to focus on my work.

Friday, April 23, 2021

 It's really cold again this morning, but that's supposed to be a temporary condition. I hope so: 30s in mid-April is too Maine for me.

Because I'm optimistic, I think I'll plan to hang clothes on the line, and also plan to do the planting I couldn't bear to do yesterday. Probably I ought to mow grass too. Spring-winter is such a weird season. 

This morning I'll finish editing a chapter and send it to the author, then work on some Frost Place stuff, take my yoga class, and possibly amuse myself by whipping up a torte or cream puffs. I'm in the mood for frivolity. And I'd like to do some writing too, maybe even outside, if the weather agrees to be less like Antarctica today.

But the wind is so bright: and the gulls fly in broad triangles against the scudding clouds: and the cardinal sings and sings and sings: and the pink trees are dressed for the debutante ball--

Thursday, April 22, 2021

We've dropped back into March-like chill this morning: 33 degrees, with a windy high of 43 forecast for the day. Northern New England springs are always sliding back into winter. Still, the big maples trees are starting to fluff after yesterday's sun and rain, and by tomorrow soft weather will clamber back out of the basement. Little steps.

Tom got his second vax yesterday afternoon, and is tired but otherwise okay. I didn't even get tired; in fact, my arm pain was so slight on this second shot that I began to wonder if the doctor had injected me. It's curious how different people's reactions are.

Today will be yet another routine desk day, though this afternoon I'd like to get outside and plant the two shade hostas I bought yesterday and sow some parsley seeds in the herb garden. The backyard desert is already looking more garden-like, though most of what I've planted hasn't yet emerged from its soil. I'm particularly looking forward to the giant Solomon's seal, which should get close to 6 feet tall. Watching it grow will be like watching Jack's beanstalk.

Otherwise: Hanging out with my son. Maybe zooming with a friend. Doing some planks and squats. Eating leftover lasagna for breakfast.  Reading the Odyssey. Washing sheets. Ah, the sweet romance of life. And that is not an ironic statement.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Derek Chauvin, guilty on all counts of murdering George Floyd.

The sigh of relief heard round the world.

* * *

This morning I woke up as a fully vaccinated American, with a slightly sore left arm but otherwise peppy, proud of our health workers, and our jurors, and our brave seventeen-year-old citizens with cellphone cameras.

"Hello, I'm a pediatrician!" said the man who gave me my second shot. He must have been close to my age, and probably hadn't regularly administered shots since early med school, if then. But there he was, in his off hours, vaccinating one Mainer after another.

And then, late in the day, with fear and trembling, to learn that, yes, justice was served: the murderer was declared guilty: his badge did not protect him . . . this was an immense, an immense relief, like a stone rolled off a grave, and what must it feel like for George's family?

Today, I'll go back to my ordinary ways. Exercise class, editing, grocery shopping, gardening, laundry, hanging out with Paul and Tom, cooking something or other for dinner. But yesterday was momentous, both privately and communally.

So we sailed on, with sorrow in our hearts,

glad to survive, but grieving for our friends.


--Homer, The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

This morning: a visit to Scarborough Downs for vax #2, then a side trip to the nursery to discover what alluring new shade plants are available. My experience with vax #1 was easy and I'm hoping that #2 will also be undramatic, but time will tell. The weather will be lovely, though, so if I'm flattened, at least I can loll outside in the hammock.

Otherwise: editing and plenty of it, and I'm still trying to catch up on housework. For dinner, haddock, either  breadcrumbed and sautéed with lemon, or poached, flaked, and turned into fishcakes topped with guacamole. Everything depends on the ripeness of the avocados.

Outside, the tulips are coming into their peak glory, the hyacinths are fading, red maples catkins are littering the gardens and sidewalks, the avenue of ornamental trees (cherries? crabapples?) on Lawn Street are opening their rosy blossoms, and so far no groundhog has moved into the hole under my neighbor's shed.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Two tulips in medicine bottles lean forward to converse with a glass swan and a stone head. Their hues are so delicate and complex--pale, pale rose, lightly streaked with yellow and green. I thought nothing could be more beautiful than daffodils on the mantlepiece, but I was wrong.

Yesterday the three of us drove out to Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth, hoping to glimpse seabirds. This is a lovely spot of coast, where the open North Atlantic meets Casco Bay, and it attracts both en route birds and over-winterers. It was our lucky day: loons and eiders were bobbing in the lively tide-current, and we saw a charming flock of brants running in and out of the waves along the beach edge. Brants spend the winter on the coast but will head to the Arctic to breed, so we were very fortunate to catch sight of them this late in the season. (Above is a photo of a female eider, a plain brown partner to her extravagant skunk-colored mate. For some reason I forgot to take pictures of the brants.)

The seabirds in Maine are so wonderful and various, and I knew almost nothing about them before I moved to Portland.

As you might have gathered, what with so much jaunting I did zero housework, and thus I have burdened my Monday with too many chores. I might try to convince Paul to vacuum, now that he's unemployed, though he's already promised to cut and bag brush while I lurch through my daily batch of editing. But stuff will get done somehow; and I did place a couple of poems, so that's good; and the brant sighting was a treat; and the weather is getting ready to warm up; and tomorrow I receive my second vax, which spell-check insists should be spelled "fax," which leads me to strange speculations about alternative history; and I mail-ordered a new polka-dotted dress and it actually looks decent on me and it didn't cost the earth; and I'm surprised to report that, thanks to my persistent exercise-class attendance, I seem to have actually developed a few toned muscles to accompany my thickening gray hairs.

Which is to say: my goal is to not be crabby today. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Yesterday's rain petered out by mid-afternoon, so I was able do a bit more planting: this time, spinach and scallions. I'm still very short of seeds, and just now acquired these, which accounts for why the spinach is going in so late. Still, what's coming up looks good: thick stands of peas and garlic; radishes and salad greens ready for thinning; more chives than I can use. The perennial herbs are beginning to glow, and I'll harvest the first tarragon tonight for the roast chicken.

For dinner last night we had soft-shell crabs, expensive but delicious. To cook them, I soaked them in milk for an hour; drained them and dredged them in seasoned flour; fried them for 4 minutes a side; served them with remoulade sauce. Tom was extremely happy.

I guess the weather will be brighter today, but so far it's hard to tell. I ought to do a lot of housework, but I might go for a hike instead. I seem to be rather indecisive this weekend, though I did end up submitting a couple of poems yesterday, so that's something.

Anyway: update from the Alcott House, Deering Center, Portland, Maine, New England, United States, North America, Earth: The three human residents are more hopeful than they were at this time last year. The feline resident continues to be massively pleased with himself. Spring is appropriately cool and rainy, and the electricity flow has stabilized. The kitchen sports new countertop and and backsplash tile; however, the cold-water faucet no longer works in the downstairs bathroom sink, and the residents have resigned themselves to brushing their teeth in hot water. There is talk about building a deck, but all is fantasy so far. Plus, the residents are having to admit to themselves that the shed roof may not last through another winter. Today is the junior resident's final shift as a line cook, and he is jubilant. Next week he plans to recover by watching National Theatre plays all week long. This seems like a good idea. Meanwhile, his parents will continue to stump off to their various employments, in more or less good humor, and talk has arisen about the possibility of actually visiting faraway people and places. That seems like a dream. Still, one could be trapped in a worse place than Alcott House, with its constant renovations, inside and out. Always a problem to solve; always a tiny accomplishment. And the residents are fond of one another. And they tell a lot of jokes, and play a lot of silly made-up games, and they are serious about serious things, and they enjoy their meals, and they don't squelch each others' hopes and dreams. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Thanks to the magnanimous cat, I had the rare fun of getting to sleep in on a Saturday morning. Cold wet daybreak is an excellent time to stay under the blankets, especially when clean sheets are scented with last week's breeze and sunshine.

But now I'm up, listening to the rain drip and the furnace groan, drinking hot coffee and gazing out the window at the emerald patch of grass we call Concord Plain. The rain may be cold, but it has greened up everything, and the plants are delighted. Out back, my little rhododendrons are stretching their arms like dancers. The rose-of-sharon has transformed from a bundle of gray twigs to a brown-green shrub pulsing with sap. The tulip buds are blushing into color.

It's so hard to resist the sight of growing; in a few minutes I'll put on shoes and a coat and wander outside to admire, but for the moment I'm still enmeshed in the luxuries of bathrobe and coffee cup. And speaking of luxuries: electricity! Not one single problem with bad street connections or leaks into the breaker box! We are living the high life.

I don't have too many plans for the day. Tom's going to the fish market first thing this morning to see if he can score us some soft-shell crabs. Paul will be working his final weekend shift. I might get out the sewing machine, or I might try to do some writing. When the rain stops, I will certainly be taking a long neighborhood walk to see how the gardens and flowering trees are coming along.

I should also submit some poems, though I've been procrastinating on that front. I do have a few things worth sharing, but I haven't been in the mood to go through the motions. And I suppose I should gird myself to start sending out my diary manuscript again. Blah. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

The rains have started. Drops are pecking at the windows, rattling on the vent covers. It will be cold today, and windy--a high of 37, with wet snowflakes swirling--and I am looking forward to a cozy inside day, with bread baking and a roast chicken, and an evening fire in the wood stove . . . and, please, no electrical emergencies.

I feel a little dull this morning. I keep typing sentences into this letter and then erasing them, because they seem too boring to share. "Friday is trash day" . . . "It's Paul's last week at work" . . . "The editing goes on and on" . . . "Garden needs water" . . . "I'm reading a book" . . . You've heard it all before and are surely sick to death of it.

My only news involves cardinal romance: a male and a female hopping around the backyard flower beds and stopping now and again to feed each other.

There are no cardinals here.

Only a woman in a red dress.
          [from Henry Carlile, "The Cardinal"]

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Yesterday Paul got his first Pfizer vaccine, and went to bed feeling completely fine, except for a stiff arm. He said most of the people getting their first shots were young adults, which was really good news. I get my second shot next Tuesday, Tom also gets his second next week, and Paul will get his second in early May. So by mid-May we will be a vaccinated household! We are actually toying with buying tickets to a Sea Dogs game . . . I mean, just imagine: outside, on a summer evening, in a baseball stadium. Such a delicious dream.

For dinner last night I made bean enchiladas, and they baked up so beautifully that I had to take their picture. Is there anything more tempting than melted cheese?

This morning: a thrilling drive to the vet so the cat can get his distemper shot, then back to the editing desk. I'm still reading the Wilson translation of the Odyssey, and now I'm also rereading Charlotte Bronte's Shirley, both of which I brought along to the clinic yesterday, so that I'd have something to do while waiting for Paul.

As we were headed out the door, Paul looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said, "Two books for a half-hour wait. Classic."

Me: But I won't know which one I'm in the mood for till I get there!

Paul: [snort].

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Yesterday I worked at my desk into the early afternoon, then turned on the Sox game and did various inside/outside chores: weeding garden beds, taking down laundry, tracking down bits and pieces of greens for salad. Today will be similar, except for a break in the middle to take Paul to Scarborough for his first vaccine shot.

But first I'm sitting on the couch, drinking black coffee and recovering from my dreams, which were very Arabian Nights-ish: genies, evil princesses, magical animals appearing from underground . . . and that reminds me: I should catch you up on the "Why It's Fun to Live with Paul Show."

Scene 1: Dawn and Paul are walking down the street and catch sight of two people on a porch struggling with a piece of furniture. Paul immediately breaks into (discreet) song: a Broadway-esque improv of an original number titled "Old Men Moving a Chair." Jazz hands are involved.

Scene 2: Dawn is finishing up a yoga class, and lying drowsily on the floor supposedly thinking about breathing and such, and overhears Paul listening to a football podcast discussing the draft value of various players . . . except that drowsy Dawn half-mishears it as "drag value." So after yoga's over, she asks Paul, "What's the drag value of Tom Brady?" and thus an hour is wasted as the two of them comb through the NFL lineups and discuss which players would look best in gowns and heels. (P.S. Tom Brady has very little drag value, but Jimmy Garoppolo is another story.)

Scene 3: Broadway improv redux: From the house window, Paul catches sight of a walker and breaks into song: "Big guy with a little dog . . . " He then describes the cast: a chorus line of ex-NBA players, all wearing outfits for shorter people, each with his own chihuahua.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Our promised rain never arrived, so I ended up having to water. Ugh. Still, the sproutlings look good . . . peas and radishes are coming up thick, and the new viburnum is settling in nicely.

This morning, I should finish the hard chapter I've been editing, finally. This is a tough and tiring job, but at least I'm making incremental progress. And the weather will warm up again, so I'm looking forward to open windows and lunch in the Lane.

Last night's poetry group was one of the best I've been to; and I have to say, it was such a relief. I've belonged to this group for several years, and I've struggled with it. After so many decades alone, I've found it a real challenge to soften into this kind of social-critical situation, even though the members are friendly, kind, and astute, even though I've been acquainted with a few of them for a long time. The problem isn't them; it's me. My discomfort hasn't circled around criticism; I want help with my work, and I appreciate smart eyes on it. More, I just haven't been able to relax. My shyness kicks in, and I talk too much or not enough, and then feel I all high-school angsty and stupid. But last night, for some reason, my shell cracked and I was able to just be. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Finally, a bit of rain today, though the patchy drizzle in the forecast won't suffice for the soaker we need. Still, the plants will be grateful for a little dampness, and I won't be tempted to keep running outside away from my desk work.

I finished judging a contest on Saturday, finished writing an essay on Sunday, got the housework and food shopping done, and kneaded a poem draft into good-enough shape for tonight's poetry-group meeting . . . really I'm feeling quite pleased with myself for managing to get everything done I needed to do. As a result, I'm starting the week feeling fairly organized--nothing much on the list to distract me from the basics: exercise class, laundry, editing, and reading the Odyssey.

One task I did yesterday was to un-winterize the mantel: e,g., take all my dried bouquets--grasses, seaweeds, lichens--out to the compost bin, scrub down surfaces and doodads, and add daffodils. Now I can't stop looking at them. What is it about daffodils that gives such delight?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Hill Country is awash with scylla--such a brilliant blue, and I love the woodland effect of the tree roots and rough mulch, in what is really just a narrow strip between two driveways. Yesterday was so beautiful: close to 70 degrees, with a dainty breeze, just enough to ruffle the hyacinth petals. After getting through my judging task, I transplanted some strawberry plants out of the herb bed, moved some crocuses so they wouldn't get mashed by future-deck construction, and then gathered some bits and pieces of vegetation for a wild salad--mostly dandelion greens and trout lilies, with a few sprigs of cultivated sorrel to fill it out--as the boys sat around in hammock and chairs and yikk-yakked about computer design programs and other stuff I don't care about . . . but that didn't matter: the sounds of their voices were a friendly lull, like the murmur of water.

This morning Tom is heading out early to take pictures at the World War II battery on Peaks Island, and I will sit here on the couch and finish banging out an essay for Teresa's poetry newsletter, and then I'll relapse into grocery shopping and housework. The temperature is supposed to be much cooler than it was yesterday--not rising out of the 40s--so I suppose it won't be terrible to be housebound by dusting and floor washing.

I've got a poem draft I'd like to work on, if I can find a minute.

This week will be so busy: editing editing editing, plus Paul's vaccine appointment, and Ruckus's vet appointment, and supposedly a poetry-group meeting tomorrow night, if I can rustle up a presentable offering.

But yesterday turned out to be more peaceable than I thought it would. After Tom drove Paul to work, the two of us played cribbage and drank beer in the late-day sunshine. And then he started a cooking fire, and I made a broccoli and wild-green salad, and he cooked sweet onions and hamburgers, and we brought them into the house and ate them on the couch while watching a Robert Altman movie, California Split, about 70s-era gamblers. Everything so familiar--those quilted vinyl bar stools and low-slung  cars and a general skim of grubbiness coating everything. Such a seedy decade to be a child in. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Planted another round of seeds yesterday: this time, carrots, beets, and lettuce. Unfortunately, rain-wise, it's looking like a repeat of last spring--which is to say, there's not enough. We haven't had a solid rainstorm since that day a few weeks ago when the water poured into our breaker box.

I've got to work this weekend, reading poems for a contest I'm supposed to judge, because I just can't take time off for this job during the week. I'm struggling to keep up with my editing schedule, I've got an essay due on Wednesday . . . Life in general feels difficult and slippery: so many balls to juggle, and all of them are bouncing off my head.

At least I slept well last night, so I'm energetic, if overwhelmed. Already there's a load of towels grinding in the washing machine, and in a few minutes I'll haul them outside to the line and stop to stand under the budding maples and take in a few deep breaths of dewy air. And then I'll trundle back inside and get started on the obligations.

Friday, April 9, 2021

 I finished up my three-session high school seminar yesterday afternoon, which went well, I think. Despite the administrative chaos, the kids were persistent about showing up and about participating. Each session was only an hour long--so short as to be breathless--but the students nonetheless managed to write 11 first drafts, each of them at least 10 lines long. I think that's an enormous output, given our cramped circumstances. Week 1 we focused on the poetic sentence; week 2 on poetry as a container for emotion; week 3 on poetry as power. Obviously these categories overlap, but the also build on each other, and by the final session the kids were thinking fairly complexly about poem-length metaphors, inhabiting other characters, and structure as an emotional tool. So, success!

Today is likely to be a this-n-that day: yoga, paperwork, email answering, phone talking, trash collection, bread making, a smidge of editing, some Frost Place work, maybe even some dusting. And I'd like to do some planting in the afternoon: carrots and beets and chard, most likely. In exciting news, my peas are up!

We could use some rain, but the temperatures are glorious--low 60s, with a southerly breeze, sinking lightly into the 40s at night. The Hill Country is a sea of blue scylla, speckled with yellow daffodils. The cardinals are flirting; the woodpeckers are tapping. Neighbor children argue about bikes and sidewalk chalk, as their little sister bawls. Crows swoop past with beaks full of twigs, and white pillowcases waltz on the line.

I'm still feeling overwhelmed by obligations, but at least the air is dulcet.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

I worked at my desk yesterday morning, and then Paul drove us to Gorham to O'Donals Nursery, which was barely open for the season and thus gave us a delightful, unimpeded stroll among the shrubs. After much cogitation, we bought a yellow rose for the reclaimed Hill Country, and a small white viburnum for the new Shed Trail bed, and seven ferns and a white hellebore for the new Shed Patch bed. Now they are all safely planted and watered, and I'm feeling confident about their future.

Today will be much the same, except instead of plant shopping I'll be teaching my last high school class. We're going to talk about poetry as power: a way to make a voice heard, to frame injustice; an art that presses us to be Shelley's "unacknowledged legislators to the world."

After that: back into the garden, or possibly onto my bike. I have to figure out what to make for dinner: maybe broccoli and polenta, maybe a spinach quiche, maybe something else entirely.

I'm currently reading Emily Wilson's translation of the Odyssey and John Updike's Memories of the Ford Administration. 

And, oh yes, I almost forgot: maybe you'd like to see "Pandemic Field Notes," the poem I wrote for the Writing the Land Project--a collaboration between poets and land trusts.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Greetings from the first daffodils of the season, posed on the kitchen windowsill next to a blue dawn sky.

Yesterday was mild and cloudy, the moody air half-bright, half-dim, and I am relieved to say that I both got a lot of desk work done and managed to spend a goodly amount of time outside. I plowed through a chunk of editing, sussed out my syllabus for Thursday's high school class, and took a trip to the grocery store, and then I rewarded myself by weeding three flowerbeds and going for a bike ride.

Our best news of the day? Paul has a vaccine appointment for next Wednesday, which means that Maine is far-enough along in the process to be scheduling young people. We are celebrating! James is fully vaxxed in Chicago, Tom and I are halfway there, and now Paul is jumping into line. By late May, all four of us will be ready to step back into the world. 

Today I hope to get through another sizable chunk of editing, copy out the poems I'll be teaching tomorrow, and then maybe, in the afternoon, take a drive to the plant nursery to buy ferns and Solomon seal for the new shade beds I prepared last fall.

And I'd like to sit in the sun and drink tea and watch the bees cavorting among the new blooms. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

I'm hoping to get into the garden this afternoon--mostly to do some weeding, as already the pushy maple seedlings and various obnoxious nameless sprouters are scrabbling for footholds. But first I need to get a chunk of editing done, and plan Thursday's high school class, and make a run to the grocery store. Also, I stayed up late last night, watching a disappointingly boring basketball game, so I might need to schedule a nap.

Paul has two more weeks to go at his pizza job. Tom is busy renovating someone's summer mansion. I'm cranking out editing pages. Mostly things are pretty quiet around here, though I've been splashing in a teeny puddle of social life: getting a haircut, visiting again with Holly and Matt, talking to Teresa about the Odyssey. We're still waiting for Paul to get his first vaccine appointment; I do wish that would hurry up and happen. And I've got a raw poem draft to fiddle with, but no time to work on it. Maybe someday.

But the radishes and arugula are up!

Monday, April 5, 2021

Easter in Portland, Maine, was sunny and mildish. I spent it cooking, and going for a family walk, and listening to the Red Sox get swept by the lowly Orioles, and sitting around in the backyard.

Here's Tom, wrestling with inadequate wifi to google the cooking temperature of lamb.

Here's Paul, in Canadian costume, reminiscing about "best hot drinks in outdoor situations I have known."

These are Tom's feet and a flame. Note our terrible red shed, photo-bombing every picture.

Appetizer display on the kitchen counter. Clockwise from top left, stuffed grape leaves, lemons waiting for the grill, calamari salad, tzatziki, feta and vegetables waiting for the oven.

The view from the hammock, before I took the laundry down.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy Easter, friends! I have a new coffee grinder, and the weather will be sunny and sort of mild, and I am trying very hard not to perseverate on how much work I have to do this week. Instead, I'm hoping that today will be an actual holiday: that I will spend time outside, and do a moderate amount of cooking, and enjoy my boys and my crocuses.

I did manage to sleep in slightly this morning, after staying up late watching the Gonzaga-UCLA game, which was a nail biter from first to last and concluded with a heart-stopping buzzer-beater, which you should definitely hunt up online if you didn't see it live last night. Gracious.

I did a bunch of dinner prep yesterday so I am hoping that today's will be low-key. Filling grape leaves is easy but tedious, so I'll rope in the boys to help with that. And I need to make a yogurt panna cotta first thing, so that it has time to set. The entire menu is as follows: a series of small bites--calamari salad with olives, fennel, tomatoes, and lemon; grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs; feta baked with red onion, a yellow bell pepper, and mint; buckwheat toasts--and then the main event: wood-grilled leg of lamb (boned, butterflied, marinated overnight in yogurt and spices) served with homemade pita and tzatziki (my version will be yogurt mixed with minced cucumber, preserved lemon, mint, and a lot of black pepper) along with grilled lemons. For dessert, we'll have the above-mentioned panna cotta topped with apricots stewed in honey. And I bought some reasonably good Greek red wine to accompany this feast.

I'll try to remember to take some pictures of the party.

One thing I did not do this year was plan an Easter breakfast. No colored eggs, no hot cross buns, no Easter baskets. I just did not have the wherewithal to produce two holiday meals.

Tomorrow, I'll be back in the trenches: a week of hair-on-fire editing, interrupted by various badly timed appointments, and I've got to plan for my last high school class, and work on Frost Place stuff, and try to catch up on obligations to other poets. But everything will get done somehow, and I'm not going to do any of it today. Instead, I'm staying on the Greek bandwagon, pouring libations to the gods, cooking them a good meal, hoping that they'll smile kindly on my household and rescue us from our next pickle.

And welcome back, Persephone, returning again to your mom's house after spending a long winter snuggling in Hades' dark and frowsy love-nest! [Does anyone else think this myth has classic sitcom overtones: controlling mother versus inappropriate son-in-law, with ditzy blond caught in between?]

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Happy Saturday morning: my coffee grinder is broken. Tea for breakfast, so it seems, and I'm not extra-excited about having to go grinder shopping today, in the midst of Easter cooking. One more obligation to add to an already very long list.

On the bright side, Paul and I sat chattering in the thin sunshine yesterday morning with our visitors Holly and Matt, and the fun of company completely outweighed how cold we all were.

Now it's freezing outside: a miserable, un-springlike 23 degrees, but eventually the temperature will moderate, and then tomorrow spring is supposed to come back.

In the meantime, I have a lot of prep to do, starting today. To begin, I'll cook the calamari and mix it with shaved fennel and red onion and herbs and lemon, and let sit in its juices overnight. I'll marinate the lamb in a yogurt and spice mixture, and I'll bake pita. I've got to acquire the retsina and, apparently, find a new coffee grinder, and do the vacuuming I didn't have time to do yesterday, and deal with desk-work issues, and . . .  

But, hey, we have electricity!

Friday, April 2, 2021

We're enduring a brief dip back into winter: snow flurries last night and today a high in the low 40s. But it will be sunny, and maybe I'll hang laundry outside anyway. I don't want to believe in winter anymore.

My day will be full of this-n-that . . . groceries, yoga, housework, and, best of all, a visit from my friend Holly, cat maven and teacher extraordinaire, who's decided to take a weekend holiday to Maine because it's the closest she can get to Scotland. She's fully vaxxed, but I'm only half-vaxxed, so we'll bundle up against the wind and go for a walk and pretend we're in Edinburgh.

I'm ridiculously excited about company. Imagine: an out-of-state friend! Visiting me!

In other good news, our governor has just announced that all Mainers will be eligible for the vaccine starting next week, which means Paul should be able to get his earlier than expected. And my high school class did meet successfully yesterday--just a fast hour together, but the kids wrote three drafts each, three strong drafts each, and it was so gratifying to see them persevering in the art, under very difficult conditions. They are eager to write, and it is moving and heartening to listen to their work.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Another dark and rainy morning; and behind the night curtain, buds are swelling and seeds are splitting and grass is greening. I am eager to see it all.

Today is the first of April, and it's opening day for the Red Sox at Fenway, and I am half-vaccinated and making plans for the future. Remember last April 1? Remember how bleak our world was?

This is what I wrote that day:

My thoughts will be brushing, again and again, against the final lines of Rilke's "Archaic Torso of Apollo":

                                           For there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

On this year's morning I have to edit, and this afternoon I have to teach, so my outdoor play will be limited. I should say that I'm assuming I have to teach, though last week's class was suddenly canceled 45 minutes before it was supposed to begin. Sigh.

In between times I'll read my Murdoch novel, and I'll make a grocery list for our Greek Easter extravaganza, and I'll do my core exercises, and I'll wash a load of laundry, and I'll figure out something or other to cook for dinner (roasted Brussel sprouts plus ?), and I'll call my parents, and I'll think about those Rilke lines. Because, yes.