Wednesday, June 30, 2021

By this time in the conference, I am always exhausted. This year is no exception. It is not easier to be home, with all of the home demands waiting outside the door; it is not easier to be on site, with the constant pressure to be social and available, whether or not I'm actually in a class session. Both scenarios are tiring, and by day 4 I always start to feel the wobbles.

Because of this incipient exhaustion, and definitely because of the heat, I had a hard time choosing poems for last night's reading. I struggled to figure out what might echo, create conversation, surprise, satisfy, even sound good in the air. Funny how sometimes a damp sheet seems to drop over my confidence in my performance choices . . . which is essentially what a reading is: an actor on stage interpreting a script. 

But my friends held me up: despite my misgivings about my choices, they listened and responded and cared, and I'll tell you: there's hardly anything more revitalizing than to bask in that sort of confidence. I am beyond grateful, though I had to sweat through two entire changes of clothing before I got through the day.

The conference proper finishes up this morning, and this afternoon we'll move into the Writing Intensive, a day and a half focused entirely on participants' own generative writing. My dear friend and colleague, Teresa Carson, will be directing the Writing Intensive and reading tonight. Here's her bio, and a link to her reading . . . and, by the way, all of the previous readings are now archived on the the Frost Place page so you can watch us at your leisure.

Teresa Carson holds an MFA in Poetry and an MFA in Theatre, both from Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Elegy for a Floater (CavanKerry Press, 2008); My Crooked House (CavanKerry Press, 2014), which was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize; The Congress of Human Oddities (Deerbrook Editions, 2015); and Visit to an Extinct City (Deerbrook Editions, 2021), which is the first book of five in her The Argument of Time series. She lives in Florida, where she co-curates two programs aimed at fostering cross-disciplinary collaborations and putting art into public settings: The Unbroken Thread[s] Project and Art in Common Places.

Link to Teresa's reading--


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Another excellent day of talks and lessons and feelings and readings, though if you've been trying to watch the readings you've probably discovered that there's been a problem with the FB Live feed. They've  been recorded and you can see them eventually, I'm told. And maybe mine will be available tonight; I know the problem is under examination. So I'll leave the link here, and you can check in at 7 p.m. if you're in the mood. 

This morning: more presentations, and then an afternoon celebration of participant poems. I'll be puddling in the heat and trying not to let on, though my web camera makes me look ridiculously pink. Just call me Rosy-Fingered Dawn. The weather's been extreme, but at least I did manage to sleep last night, with the help of a roaring box fan. So all in all I feel pretty peppy on this withering morning.

It's so hot in the Pacific Northwest that yesterday the adventure boys were toning down their hiking expectations and considering a day of urban air conditioning instead. That's a relief to me, as, in true mother fashion, my worries had already enthusiastically shifted from grizzly bears to heat stroke.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Day 2 of the conference went beautifully: terrific presentations from the participants, complex conversations about their topics, a dinnertime roundtable focused on setting up a participant-run writing group, and a spellbinding afternoon lesson and evening reading from BJ Ward. Nonetheless, it's been hard to do this all from the hot little back room of my house. I miss the mountains, the wet grass, the bear sightings, the bats at dusk. And every time I emerge, I have to do a chore: take down laundry, water the garden . . . Still, despite the awkwardness, I feel lucky to be teaching at all, and to be spending time with people who are so engaged with the work we adore.

I am also extremely fortunate to be living with a partner who presents me with grilled red peppers and octopus salad, served by candlelight, after I finish up for the evening, and then won't let me wash the dishes. What a prince.

Today: more participant presentations, and then an afternoon and evening spent with the poet Nathan McClain.  Nathan is the author of Scale (Four Way Books, 2017) and Previously Owned (Four Way Books, 2022); a recipient of fellowships from the Frost Place, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference; a graduate of the M.F.A. program for writers at Warren Wilson College; and a Cave Canem fellow. New poems and prose appear in Poetry Northwest, Guesthouse, Zocalo Public Square, the Critical Flame, and On the Seawall.  Nathan teaches at Hampshire College and serves as poetry editor of the Massachusetts Review.

Link to Nathan's 7 p.m. reading via Facebook Live--

Adventure boys' update: they are now in Seattle, and much less smelly than they were a few days ago.

Laconic text update:

Paul: "James quote of the day. 'Free coffee? I love Idaho!'"

Dawn: "Classic."


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Our first conference session went well, I think. The poem under discussion was Frost's "The Line-Gang," an odd little truncated sonnet about stringing telegraph and telephone wires through rural New Hampshire at the turn of the 20th century . . . plenty to talk about as regards communication, both within the poem itself and among the linking notions that arise from imagined stories or lived experiences. 

Today I'm moving myself off the front burner, as the participants will take over the morning with their presentations and then our guest poet, BJ Ward, will fill the afternoon. BJ will also be reading tonight at 7 p.m.: here's his bio and a link to the Facebook Live stream.

BJ Ward is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Jackleg Opera (North Atlantic Books), which received the Paterson Award for Literary ExcellenceHis poems have appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, the New York Times, and the Sun, among others, and have been featured on NPR’s “The Writer’s Almanac,” NJTV’s “State of the Arts,” and websites such as Poetry Daily and Vox Populi. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and two Distinguished Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. He works at Warren Community College and has recently been a guest lecturer in Creative Writing at Lafayette College and DeSales University.

Link to BJ's reading--

After four days of silence, the adventure boys checked in last night. They'd been well off the grid, backpacking into Glacier National Park, and their text was exactly what any mother with a tolerance for grubbiness might want to hear.

Paul: We have returned only slightly worse for wear. We are very smelly and have sore feet but are in high spirits.

That, combined with our neighbors' big party--a wedding reception with hours of pulsing African dance music, lots of happy people dressed in white, a big chair for the bride set up in front of the garage, little kids racing around nonstop, and and some kind of after-dark cheering and shouting ritual that I loved but couldn't see--has put me into a pretty good mood. 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

 "We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words."

                                                 --John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman

* * *

This will be a quick note as I am heading down the conference rabbit hole this morning. I'll try to check in every morning and let you know how things are going. And I'll also try to post links to our evening Zoom readings (7 p.m., EST), which are open to the public via Facebook Live. You do not need to have a Facebook account to access the readings.

Tonight's reader is Kerrin McCadden, the author of American Wake (Black Sparrow Press). Her debut collection, Landscape with Plywood Silhouettes, won the Vermont Book Award and the New Issues Poetry Prize. Her chapbook, Keep This to Yourself, was awarded the Button Poetry Prize. McCadden has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the Sustainable Arts Foundation Writing Award. Her poems have appeared recently in American Poetry ReviewLos Angeles Review, New England Review, and Ploughshares. She is associate director of the Conference on Poetry and Teaching at the Frost Place and associate poetry editor at Persea Books. She teaches at the Center for Technology, Essex, and lives in South Burlington, Vermont.

Link to Kerrin's reading here.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Another cool morning, dim and overcast, with a thin chance of rain, but the scorchers will return in a few days, and I'm starting to worry about how hot the little back room will be during the conference. Pointlessly worrying, because there's nothing I can do about it.

Otherwise, prep is going well: a cheerful faculty meeting yesterday, various plans and platforms set up for participants, and today I'll work on posting faculty handouts, getting the room ready for prime time, figuring out how Tom and I will juggle home stuff while I'm down the poetry rabbit hole . . . and, of course, escalating my battle with the groundhog. Ugh.

I think I mentioned I've been rereading John Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman, which is, among other things, a meditation on the chasm between the Victorian mind and the mid-twentieth-century mind, and I was struck by this commentary:

" . . . he tried to dismiss the inadequacies of his own time's approach to nature by supposing that one cannot reenter a legend. He told himself he was too pampered, too spoiled by civilization, ever to inhabit nature again; and that made him sad, in a not unpleasant bittersweet sort of way. After all, he was a Victorian. We could not expect him to see what we are only just beginning--and with so much more knowledge and the lessons of existential philosophy at our disposal--to realize ourselves: that the desire to hold and the desire to enjoy are mutually destructive. His statement to himself should have been, "I possess this now, and therefore I am happy," instead of what it so Victorianly was: "I cannot possess this forever, and therefore I am sad."

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Much cooler this morning, down into the low 50s, but the forecast is for sunshine and the temperature will climb into the 70s . . . a classic Maine summer day. On the down side, however, the groundhog has returned: I caught sight of it in the garden yesterday, munching on broccoli leaves and then zipping back into my neighbor's yard, no doubt into its den under her shed.

And so the groundhog battle begins again. Sigh.

Today I want to catch up on some house things, and then I've got a faculty meeting, and then maybe I'll find time to go for a walk. No updates from the boys; I think they are incommunicado now, on a several-day backpacking tour into Glacier. I am trying not to fret about grizzly bears.

Otherwise: for some reason I'm feeling a little down. A bit of groundhog gloom, no doubt: they are hugely destructive, and my garden is like a candy store. And I've got some nerves, as always, about the conference. I know the sessions will go well, but somehow, at this particular almost-there juncture, I always start doubting my ability to make them work.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

As if to balance out Monday, Tuesday turned out to be an almost wasted day, in which my work plans were stymied and I ended up spending much of the morning trying to track down a missing person . . . who turned out to be fine, but oy.

Still, we did get real rain last night, which was extremely welcome. And now, in the cool morning darkness, a cardinal is singing; an occasional car hisses past on the wet street. Downstairs, a load of towels churns in the machine, and soon, when daylight begins fingering the maples, I'll step outside with my basket and admire the refreshed world.

The boys are now in Montana, and slightly less laconic in their texts:

Paul: Little Bighorn

Dawn: How did it feel to be there?

Paul: Kinda unpleasant to be there honestly. It seems pretty insulting to have a military cemetery in the middle of a reservation

[Not spoken but in both of our minds: Custer. A bad man, a bad leader. You're still just as horrible after all these years. As I just said to a friend: he's like a Superfund site. His legacy never stops leaking poison.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Yesterday felt pretty unbelievable. I spent the entire morning writing my conference talk, which is now done, done, done. Then I baked bread and vacuumed and washed floors, read quite a bit, did the usual laundry and watering . . . all the while knowing I'd passed the morning in deep concentration, probing a difficult topic, focusing on structuring a piece that morphs from talk into open conversation; and that I had the freedom of the house to do this; that I could pace from room to room, reading draft after draft aloud . . . 

Today, I've got a pile of mundane conference tasks to work through: finalize my syllabus, set up a conference web page, and shuffle through other such podunky projects. Supposedly rain will be arriving this afternoon, so I might try to squeeze in some weeding before it does. Still, the hours stretch before me: so many of them, and all of them mine to fill. I wonder what I'll do. I'm excited to find out.

In the meantime, I've been receiving the laconic text version of the boys' western adventures. For instance:

Dawn: Good morning! How's the view?

Paul: Full of prairie dogs

Monday, June 21, 2021

Monday morning, cool with the promise of heat. Birds are singing in the lilacs but otherwise the street is quiet, except for the growl of the neighbors' air conditioners.

Our three-day date weekend ended with drinks and appetizers at the restaurant around the corner, then a communal doze on the couch in front of a Carole Lombard film. It's funny how refreshed we've both felt: not that we did much out of the ordinary, or much that we wouldn't also have done with someone else around. But I suppose the refreshment arose from simply concentrating on enjoying each other.

This morning we'll split off into our work days . . . Tom back to trimming out the windows of a big mansion south of town, me finishing up the talk I'll give on the last day of the conference. I still don't have a room of my own, but for this week I'll have a house of my own. I'll write and read, and catch up on housework, and pant through my exercise class, and then in the late afternoon Tom will come home, and we'll hang out together and I'll cook lamb chops for dinner. I know this sounds like nothing special, but I haven't had a solitary work space for a very, very, very long time. When I look back at this year and a half, I have a hard time understanding how I got anything accomplished.

Meanwhile, the boys have been texting me updates from Minnesota and South Dakota. "About to go past the DeSmet exit," Paul wrote. Laura Ingalls country is what he meant. I asked him to describe the landscape. "Flat," he told me. "Soybeans as far as the eye can see." 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Woke up to a power outage this morning, which accounts for my slight lateness in writing to you. But now the 21st-century American luxuries have returned: hot coffee in hand, fan whirring upstairs in the bedroom, freezer clonking ice into the tray.

It will be another hot day, so I should get myself up off the couch and do some weeding pronto. Yesterday Tom and I decided to work around the house in the morning and then go into town in the afternoon. So I emptied my backyard compost bins, tossed the semi-soil with last fall's leaf pile, and hosed everything down: a dirty, sweaty job, and a satisfying one. I have loved figuring out that, even in the city, there are beneficial and reasonably efficient ways to manage leaf and garden waste. My backyard planning is built around this annual influx of new base soil--all of which comes from my own maple trees, weeds, old peavines, deadheaded flowers, kale stems, and so on. Even a small plot can help take care of its own future.

Meanwhile, Tom spent the morning working on some chairs he's reconditioning--a set of six midcentury-modern dining-room chairs he bought off Craigslist. His plan is to repaint the metal frames and re-cover the seats. (The wooden backs are still in excellent shape.) So he was experimenting with spray paint, building a rough work stand to hold a chair while he paints it, and other such things.

After lunch, we drove downtown and went to the art museum and a used furniture store--you could call it an afternoon spent mulling over attractive objects that were out of our price range. Then we came home, and I watered the garden, and then I turned on the baseball game, and we drank beer and played cards, and I cooked Sichuan shrimp for dinner, and then we ate homemade cherry ice cream.

This date weekend has been pretty fun so far.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

As of this morning, both of our boys are in Chicago, and Tom and I will be living alone together for the next three weeks. The shift feels notable, and in honor of the novelty we've decided to focus on the holiday pleasures of "hey, we're on a date!"and spend most of the weekend doing stuff together, before reverting to our work lives on Monday.

This will be my last weekend off before the conference begins, so I suppose I should make chore-like use of it as well. I do need to deal with the compost bins: empty them and mix the detritus with last fall's leaves so the stack has time to break down enough to serve as a base layer for a new backyard bed in September. But mostly I think I need to relearn how not to be a caretaking parent, with her antennae always on the alert. As I sit here on the grey couch, in the dim morning light, I am aware of how airy I feel. I am not responsible. And I suspect that Paul is experiencing an equally salutary sensation: I am responsible for myself. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Yesterday I spent $800 on a complete set of new brakes. Ugh. It seems, however, I am not alone: the mechanic told me he has replaced a ridiculous number of brakes this summer. Apparently, when you don't do much driving for a year and a half, your brake pads and rotors start to corrode. So be warned, work-from-home friends: get those brakes checked pronto.

A much happier occurrence was a visit from my darling friend Kerrin--wonderful poet, associate director of my Frost Place conference, and all-around entertaining pal. We spent a couple of hours strolling around the neighborhood and gossiping about this and that, and, goodness gracious, how amazing it is to see my people again.

But now here I am, at the big day: when Paul flies west and Tom and I look at each other and say, "Um. Hello."

Next week, I will be home alone, all day, every day. What a bizarre thought.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Another morning spent chipping away at my Frost Place talk. Writing these pieces requires so much staring into space, so much slow floor pacing . . . it's a wonder I ever get anything down onto the page. Still, miraculously, the words, like snowflakes, do start to stick together, and something begins to take shape, though not always just what I expected.

This afternoon my friend Kerrin will stop by for a visit . . . the first time we've laid eyes on each other for more than two years. Paul will be frantically packing for his trip. Clover flowers will dot the grass, and a jaunty Carolina wren will flip her tail and carol, "Teakettle, teakettle, teakettle, tea!" On the clothesline, sheets and pillowcases will puff gently in a small wind. And I will have to start thinking of myself as a poet, as a person who engages with public life, as a teacher with something to do.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

I spent yesterday morning working on my conference syllabus . . . copying out our featured Frost poem, working on writing prompts, sussing out a lesson plan. I've still got work to do, but I'm getting matters under control, which feels good.

Then, in the afternoon, I transplanted cabbages and chard, sowed patches of beans and cilantro, harvested arugula and herbs, and went for a long walk with Paul. Only two more days with the boy in the house, before he embarks on his three-week western odyssey with his brother: the times, they are a-changin around here.

We've suddenly had two places open up in the conference. If you know of anyone who might be interested in joining us this summer (June 26-July 1), please let me know as soon as possible. Yes, we'll be online again this year, but I promise you that the experience will be collegial and revivifying. I'd love to spend time with you.

What else is new? . . . oh yes, I've got a new poem up at Vox Populi: "Nocturne: A Marriage." 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

For dinner last night, we enjoyed the fruits of my father's enormous garden--strawberries and asparagus--which I transformed into a rainy-night soup and a simple bowl of berries topped with creme fraiche. His garden, visually, looks almost exactly like the Jersey market gardens he grew up tending, with everything perfectly square and straight and tilled; whereas mine zigzags among rocks and curves, making the best of gravel, hills, and tight corners. Clearly I came of age gardening on unforgiving New England soil, whereas he, somehow, has managed to make New England look like Mid-Atlantic breadbasket.

Yesterday I finished two small editorial projects, so this morning I have time to focus on Frost Place doings. It's supposed to rain off and on all day, which will keep me happily housebound: the garden enjoyed a good long downpour last night, and we could use three more days of that weather, but certainly I'm grateful for whatever we get.

At 6 a.m. on a Tuesday in mid-June, in the third decade of the century, the little northern city by the sea is draped with fog, and the Norway maples, solemn as cathedrals, tower over shimmer-patches of roses, the plastic playsets of toddlers, the bikes left out in the rain. The narrow streets are crowded with silent construction equipment; gulls screech and wheel over the invisible bay; and here at the Alcott House a French press stands half-full on the white kitchen counter, a cat sleeps on a yellow chair, thick humid air strains through the open screen door . . .


Monday, June 14, 2021

Waking up in Portland again, after a whirlwind trip to Vermont to watch my nephew graduate from high school. It was good trip, but for some reason very tiring: I went to bed at 8:30 last night, and slept like a boulder till morning. The driving was much of what wore us out, not least because our brakes were developing a shake, which is never comforting. But the visit was emotional too . . . the passage of time so visible; and that also, I think, contributed to our communal weariness.

This morning, we'll slip back into the accustomed grooves: Tom off to trim out windows in a big house by the sea; me upstairs to my desk to work on other people's books; Paul sorting through his stuff as he gets ready for his western adventure. I'll call the garage and try to book a car appointment; I'll catch up on laundry and food matters; I'll work a bit in the garden; I'll get back into my exercise-class swing and schedule a Zoom meeting and answer emails and probably do a bunch of other things I'm not currently remembering I need to do.

I was reading Raymond Chandler in the backseat of the car, but now that I'm home, I'm switching over to Claire Tomalin's bio of Jane Austen, which my mother just gave me. I'll let you know what I learn.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Last night we walked to a Seadogs game and spent the evening happily clapping for strikeouts and bloop singles. This morning we're heading out on our first trip to see family since December 2020. I've got numbers of things to do before we leave--picking peas and watering everything in sight, in addition to packing--but I took a bunch of garden photos for my dad yesterday afternoon, and wondered if you might like to see them too.

Here's the Lane, with its three big healthy potato plants; lettuce, carrots, and beets in the box behind them.

And this is another view of the Lane, with a glimpse of the stone path Tom installed for my birthday and the cilantro garden beside it.

Here's the back yard: with the Bullpen garden in the foreground (Koji the Japanese maple and friends), fire pit to the left, new yellow chairs and hammock, and a semblance of grass.

Tomatoes coming up strong in the Breadbasket garden, though you can see how dry the soil is.

A view of the Terrace: peas, a cucumber, and a row of spindly beans.

Lantern Waste plantings: sedums and cushion spurge in front, scarlet runners climbing the pole, sunflower and zinnia seedlings sprinkled throughout.

And a vision of roses in the Hill Country: big white rugosa, the baby yellow tea rose, and a vibrant reddish-pink variety. What a year for roses this has been . . . they are magnificent.

 You may or may not hear from me over the weekend, but I'll surely be chattering again by Monday.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Only 60 degrees this morning! The house is pleasantly cool, and I am actually wearing long sleeves. What a welcome change.

I have a bunch of things to do today. Much of it is the yard stuff I've been unable to manage during the heat wave . . . mowing and trimming and weeding; and I need to run errands and wrap my nephew's graduation present and figure out what I'll be wearing this weekend: a task that seems difficult and strange because I haven't gone anywhere overnight for a very long time.

James left yesterday morning and I cried, as I always do. And then I pulled myself together and managed to finish up the epic editing project that's been consuming me for the past several months. After we get back from Vermont, I've got a stack of smaller projects to work through, but mostly I'll need to focus my attention on Frost Place prep.

I'm undergoing all of the awkwardness of transition right now--heading off to visit my parents and my sister's family for the first time in more than a year; watching my sons lope off into the sunset; trying to reconfigure my sense of self--yet again--from primary caretaker to loving observer; crossing over into teaching and leading, after months spent as a manuscript nurse; wandering around the house, trying to find a cool room of my own; and meanwhile the street construction never seems to end, and I hate how I look in all clothes.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

This morning James is leaving on the next leg of his East Coast tour. I wish the weather had been more welcoming while he was here. It was too hot to do much of anything besides flop languidly and drink oceans of ice water. But since the next leg of his tour involves helping a friend do some roofing, I guess I'm glad he had the heat with us and not with him. Today is forecast to be about 10 degrees cooler than yesterday, and the rest of the week should be cooler than that, so life for everyone should be a bit more tolerable than it has been.

Today: watering my stressed garden, finishing an editing project, doing some Frost Place stuff, catching up on laundry. We're heading out to Vermont on Friday, so I have various loose ends to tie before we leave. And then next week Paul will be back and forth, here and away, for a few days, before flying west to begin his big road trip. Empty Nest Redux is about to commence, and this will be a strange and unsettled summer as we all figure out how to make the shift.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

It's been brutally hot for two days now, and we have a third on the horizon. At least I slept better last night--not that the room was cooler, just that I was so tired that my body forgot to notice. We've had a hard time thinking about fun, what with the heat and poor James's terrible allergies to whatever pollen is floating around Portland at the moment. I suppose someday we might buy an air conditioner; we never needed one up north, so it's an expense that hasn't quite occurred to us as necessary. Maybe we should change our minds on that.

In any case, today's supposed to be the last bad day, and then the wave will break and we'll drop down into more normal June temperatures. We did go out to eat last night, and tonight I'll do something or other with shrimp and peas.

I've been working on Frost Place and editing stuff amid the hoohah, and trying to help my friend Betsy find a home for her cat . . . which I think I've done. Maybe I have a secret talent as a cat broker. And I've been watering my hot plants, and playing games with the boys, and helping James find a garage that will fix his brakes, and brewing many, many batches of ice tea, and talking to Teresa about the Odyssey . . .

Monday, June 7, 2021

Paul and I picked out this rose bush in early April, when it was nothing but bony canes, and today it is in full bud--a gorgeous creamy yellow, the shade of a lemon tart. I am delighted. I love roses, especially the old-fashioned fragrant ones, and this one is now settling among the reclamations that were here when we arrived: a thriving white rugosa and a pair of dark pink tea roses with an aphid problem. Angela just brought me a red rose from Wellington, which looks very peaked at the moment, but I'm nursing it. I have confidence it will survive.

The heat has been intense, but the gardens are hanging in. The tomatoes love this weather, and I'm hoping the temperatures might sandbag some of the insects that have been destroying my bean and okra seedlings. I'll pick a second batch of peas this afternoon, and a batch of garlic scapes. Cilantro is growing crazily all over the flowerbeds, and green strawberries are swelling. We are tilting into high summer.

James didn't arrive till mid-afternoon, so I did manage to get some desk work finished before he appeared. This morning I'll do some Frost Place things, but mostly I want to spend time with my sons. I haven't seen J for almost a year, and now he and Paul are busily planning their big western adventure, and the house is full of boys and chatter, and that cat is insulted because everyone keeps sitting in his chair.

For now, though, all inside is quiet. Coolish air filters through the open windows, crows holler in the maples. soon Tom will heave himself out of bed and start getting dressed for work. I will turn my thoughts to laundry and dishes, and maybe my exercise class, if it seems socially feasible.

I've been reading Raymond Chandler's The High Window and thinking about the Odyssey. I've been listening to Nina Simone and REM and Red Sox games. I've been playing cards and conjuring a poem in my head. So many cadences, so much varied language and dramatic pacing, and all of it feeds the work. I think that is magical.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

The air is heavy and humid, more like July's weather than June's--a dense, sultry blanket, triggering restless dreams and a languid waking. Still, I love the open windows, the early vague coolness of a summer morning, slow cloudy dawn presaging a broiling afternoon. Birds clatter and trill among the maples--cardinals, sparrows, wrens. In the distance an ambulance whines, and the scent of peonies wafts through the darkened living room.

Today I've got a thousand errands and chores to juggle: grass mowing, first thing, before the heat sets in; then grocery shopping and bathroom cleaning and getting the back room ready for James's arrival. I guess I deserve a busy day, as I did a lot of sitting around yesterday: visiting with friends and watching Helen's baton recital, then spending most of the rest of the day lying in the backyard hammock, reading a Raymond Chandler novel and doing nothing useful. I've got stack of editing to deal with this week, which is making me anxious, as the house will be full of family and I really don't know how or where I can sequester myself to get the work done. I guess I'll figure it out.

Anyway, for the moment, I am sitting here quietly on the couch, drinking my small cup of coffee, gradually pulling myself together for the day. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

 Gosh, what a great evening! Our first post-pandemic party was a joy . . . sitting outside around the fire, on a summer night . . . easy talk, homegrown food; the pleasure of introducing new friends to old ones; young people and their parents; everyone restful and so aware of the novelty of gathering.

I woke up this morning feeling relaxed and happy. And now the social whirl continues, because shortly I'm heading off to another gathering with old friends: to watch their daughter's baton recital . . . an event I have never before witnessed, so have no idea what to expect. My mother was a majorette in high school, and sometimes my sister and I whacked each other with her old baton. That is the extent of my experience.

So I should get a move on: take a shower, start the laundry, etc., etc. The boys are going canoeing today--making up for last weekend's washout--and the day will be a scorcher: 80 degrees and bright sun. I'll pick our first peas this afternoon, put in some transplants, and make something or other for dinner with leftover mussels.

Tomorrow James is arriving! The wonders never cease!

Friday, June 4, 2021

I woke, in the very early hours, to the sound of rain falling, and now, under first light, the streets and roofs shimmer, and the grass glows that peculiar intense green one sees in travel brochures of Ireland. A cardinal hops among the wet hydrangeas; another, invisible, whistles in the ash tree.

The day is breaking beautifully for a party. Tonight's will be a small party--just five guests, plus the three of us--but it will be our very first in this new era, and the mediocre backyard is eager to host.

Paul and I have a bit of cooking to do, and I need to go to the grocery store, but mostly I refuse to over-fuss. The road construction seems to be winding down, and the weather forecast is stellar, and I just want to sit outside and marvel over the faces of my friends.

Yesterday I got a haircut, and submitted a couple of poems to journals, and had a meeting about Frost Place stuff, and finished reading about Ivy Compton-Burnett, and cooked a giant batch of Casco Bay mussels. Here they are, in their enamel dishpan, clean and glossy and ready for the pot.

And here are my first garlic scapes. I think they are wildly beautiful.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

I finished a first draft of the laundry poem, mostly while sitting in the back garden, and I finished it despite the 12 hours of street construction rocking the neighborhood. Constant racket and dust, plus being stared at by the flagger every time I step out my door--it's all a headache and a distraction, so the fact that I wrote a poem in the midst of this--a historical poem that has nothing to do with dump trucks or pavement--feels like some sort of accomplishment.

Today, I'm washing sheets, and getting my hair cut, and going to the fish market, and working on Frost Place stuff, and attending a Zoom meeting, and maybe tinkering a little more with that poem draft. It's difficult to garden out front with that staring flagger on patrol, but at some point I'll have to check up on my plants. I'll have to assume a familiar woman's role: donning a mask of icy indifference as a way to manage a sketchy, overfamiliar stranger. I hate that this is a regular part of our communal lives.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

I got a lot done yesterday--finished editing a chapter, grocery-shopped, mowed and trimmed, and foisted the vacuuming onto Paul. Today I've got my exercise class to sweat through and a small amount of editing to do, and then I'll turn my thoughts to Frost Place prep and weeding the strawberry bed.

It will be another mid-70s day, and the summer garden is taking hold . . . tomato plants noticeably taller every day, pea pods setting on the vines, roses budding, and the first lilies beginning to open.

Maybe this afternoon I'll find time to sit in the shade and work on my laundry poem. The street construction is a drag, but at least the back garden is somewhat protected from the dust and the uproar. I am cheerful and full of energy but also feeling weighed down by obligation. How to be solitary; how to let time slide: those are not the stories of my life at the moment. So I read and write in noise and distraction, in compressed half-hours, and I get the work done anyway, albeit much more slowly, and I surprise myself, which is the point, isn't it? Or maybe the point is: I don't know how not to read and write.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

After three days of cold rain, the weather is turning. Today is forecast to be in the 70s, and the garden and the grass will explode into growth. I'll be back at my desk today, and I've also got a bunch of errands and house chores to deal with, but I really do hope I can find an hour to mow. If I wait too long, my little reel mower will be overwhelmed.

It's the first day of June: the month of roses, peas, strawberries, and peonies. Next weekend we've got another social extravaganza--dear friends from the northcountry arriving on Friday; Saturday morning spent with another dear northcountry friend; my beloved son James arriving on Sunday. In the meantime and in the midst, I've got to plan a conference, and finish an editing project, and start another editing project, and and and, etcetera, etcetera. But I feel ebullient. Everything will get done; everything is so exciting.

So this morning I'll hang a load of clothes on the line, and get to work on my editing task, and open all of the windows that don't face the street construction, and lug my copy of the Odyssey into the back garden, because it's summertime in this little northern city by the sea, and the grounds of the Alcott House are bountiful and blooming, and I am a middle-aged poet-housekeeper, and I do love being busy and alive.