Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Books and Better Days

 Books and Better Days

The woodman came this morning.  The Songwriter helped him arrange a hefty load of logs in a corner of our front porch, and another beneath the eaves behind.  This is the same woodman we've used for years, accompanied by the same dog - a big, black fellow we are always warned against approaching, an admonition that is easy to obey.  We dread the day that dog won't be found sitting proudly in the front seat of the wood truck, and were happy to see him there again this year, even as we only waved politely from a good distance away.

There isn't much in life that better signifies security and preparedness that a stack of aged firewood.  The knowledge that no matter how harsh the winds of winter blow, the fire inside will still crackle and blaze, and we'll stay warm and safe:  that is valuable knowledge indeed.  Bring your worst, we are ready.

Throughout this ridiculously difficult year, our hands have consistency been slapped whenever we reached for the usual comforts to lift our wounded spirits.  A gathering of friends?  No.  An escape to a faraway shore?  No.  Even a head-clearing session at the gym?  Nope.  And probably most painful of all...a big and bearish hug to squeeze out the worry and the fear?  Not a chance.  Like so many, I tried to see this time as a gift, a time to write clear and consistent prose, a time to reflect, to grow.  But my focus was so often inferior to that of a cricket.  Little by little I learned to be a bit kinder to myself, for as we all heard ad infinitum..."these were unusual times".

The skies seem much clearer since this past Saturday, and as newsman Van Jones so eloquently stated on that day, so many of us feel like we can breathe again.  Hope is palpable on my street, and we have so much to be grateful for, even as we mourn all we have lost.  Grace and beauty may may wither in bad weather, but they'll never be stomped out, no matter how big the boots that try, and it was grace and beauty that continue to take my hand to  lead me through the past months.  Cooking beautiful meals.  Perfecting chocolate chip cookie recipes. Taking long, long walks through the changing seasons.  Knitting Christmas gifts.  Talking to friends.  Writing a new story.  Watching my new novel begin its journey into the world.  And reading...lots and lots of reading...wonderful books.

Here are just a few of the books I've read over the past months, books that brought me knowledge, joy, and laughter.  Books that planted a germ of empathy, as all good books do.  And books that reminded me of my holy responsibility to work at making the world a better place.  I hope you'll find something here to life your spirits.  Better days are coming, my friends!  



PS.... I've linked each book to an independent book store across the country.

  They need our support. 

 We need them!


And, for pre-order!!

                                Painting above ON THE SANDS, by Harold Harvey

Friday, September 11, 2020


The sweater was red and gold plaid, one of the warmest I owned at the time, and I wore it on September third, the year I turned sixteen.  I remember this because it was the second date I had with The Songwriter, and I was besotted in that unique way that teenage girls can be; we remember everything.  

There aren't many roads for a serious relationship to travel at that age; we still had so much living to do, so much life to discover.  So we became best friends instead.  We'd  go out on dates, then call each other up when those dates were over to run down to the all night record store together.  That was when the fun really happened.  We'd talk and laugh, neither of us realizing that the foundation for a happy marriage was being built right before our eyes. 

 So of course, I remember that sweater.  I think I even still have it somewhere.  It reminds me of many things: love, and history - youth, and the passing of time.  It also leads me back to the sort of autumns we used to know.  For today, I cannot even imagine wearing the warmest sweater in my wardrobe on the third day of September.

The old fable tells us if you put a frog into boiling water, he will, understandably, jump out.  But if you make him comfortable in a tepid pot, you can slowly turn up the heat until he boils to death.  Now, I have no intention of testing that theory, but it's a pretty apt metaphor for the situation in which we sit today.

I'm not all that old, but I can remember many September mornings on the first day of school when we lined up wearing new corduroy and wool.  Crisp air flowed in through open windows as we slept, we'd wake in the night with our noses cold.  Winter meant at least one or two good snowfalls, and Easter mornings were chilly and bright.  We only ran the air-conditioner occasionally in summertime; if the thermometer hit ninety, we were shocked.  If we'd suddenly been placed in the year 2020, like our friend the frog, we'd have looked for a way to jump out.  If we'd been shown the future, photographs like the one above from California this week, the horror would have been overwhelming, the fear paralyzing.

The disasters have increased slowly, hubris turning up the heat in incremental amounts.  The hundred-year floods coming every decade, then nearly every year.  Cataclysmic hurricanes no longer rare.  We have lost so much time in the past three and a half years as we've watched this administration gleefully rip up every regulation placed by its predecessor as roadblocks to disaster.  Beginning with his decision to lead the nation out of the Paris climate accord, the man in the White House has done more to roll back and weaken every environmental law than any president in history.  We have been hobbled by ignorance, idiocy, and arrogance to such an extent it is difficult to visualize breaking free of those ancient, calamitous chains.

Like "awesome", the word "devastating" has become so overused in the current parlance it seems to have lost all coherent meaning.  There is such a roster of issues in our country at present that meet the requirements for that definition - from the shameless bating of racists, to the 200,000 Americans lost in this pandemic, the severity of which the current president chose to lie about and ridicule even as he knew better.  It is difficult to imagine a more appropriate image for our current state than the chilling photo taken this week of the Golden Gate Bridge, its beauty obscured by the flames of a modern-day hell.

I doubt I'll live to see another autumn like the ones we used to know.  Perhaps none of us will.  But maybe, just maybe, it doesn't have to get worse.  Maybe, just maybe, there are enough people left who can see the seriousness of this next election and will choose for the children coming up behind us, children who deserve to live in a better world than this, children who will remember sweaters. 

Please go to Vote.org to make certain you are registered to vote.  
Make a plan for how you're going to do it, and vote as early as your state allows.

Monday, September 7, 2020


 The Book

When a dream is realized you no longer count the hours.  Those endless afternoons in a cranny of the library, lost inside a world no one but you is even aware exists, talking to people in your head who seem as real to you as family.  And when you emerge from that world to share it with others, you are amazed that they find it as fascinating as you did yourself, amazed that a fabulous agent wants to represent you, amazed that a publisher like Random House wants to publish you.  

    You are stunned when you see the beautiful cover.  Stunned to see your book up on websites for pre-ordering.  Stunned to know that in a few short months, people all over will be able to enter the world you created in the silence of your own imagination.  

    But my sweet friends, that is where I am right now.  Amazed, stunned and so very grateful.  Above is the cover of my new novel, THE SWEET TASTE OF MUSCADINES.  You can read more about it at the Random House website, and on all bookshop sites.  It will be released on March 16, and I pray for a happier, brighter, saner world when that date rolls around.  

    I hope to be writing more here soon.

Much Love, 


and Apple, Andrew, George, and The Songwriter... all masked and doing well. xx

Saturday, April 11, 2020

This Easter

This Easter

Being an April baby, Easter has occasionally coincided with my birthday.  This was delightfully confusing when I was a little girl.  Bunny rabbits and fancy dresses, birthday cakes and sunrise services, gardenia corsages and presents.  All too much to take in properly when I was really small.  I soon learned, however, that, in order of priority, my birthday was quite a ways down the ladder of importance from Easter Sunday.

I suppose I've been pondering the significance of Easter for the whole of my life.  It is the crux of the Christian faith, after all.  If Jesus didn't really rise from the dead, the whole thing is pretty much rubbish.  As a person of faith, I believe that he did, and this tells me death is something that can ultimately be conquered; that we will live again, just as he did.  Even though it's far outside my understanding, that's still where I place my hope.

These days, it's hard to find Jesus in religion.  When one reads the Beatitudes, the values of Christ stand in razor-sharp contrast
to what we often see represented as American Christianity.  Those he called Blessed - the meek, the merciful, the poor in spirit, the peacemakers, those who mourn, those who hunger for righteousness - seem to have been cast aside, mocked and deemed weak, and in their place we find the arrogant, ignorant, and mendacious being praised and exalted as never before.  At a time when we so dearly need the comfort of faith, the church can seem like the last place in which it can be found.

But the words of Jesus cannot be drowned out by a louder voice, nor do they fade under a liar's glare.  We are seeing them come soaring to life right before our eyes.  As he told us in Matthew, "the last shall be first, and the first shall be last".  This pandemic is proving that truth in ways we couldn't have imagined.  For it is not the celebrated, the over-paid, or the powerful who are holding us  together at present.  It is the ones so often overlooked, undervalued, and discounted.  The grocery worker, the nurse, the sanitation worker, the delivery person, the ambulance driver, the hospital janitor.  Those whom many in this country would deem unworthy for a paltry increase in the minimum wage, the ones who don't deserve health care, education, or an affordable place to live, the ones who have to fight for their right to vote are, we see now, worth just as much, or more, than any corporate head.  Today, without them, our country would collapse.  It is divine truth, uncovered, and set out into the light.  The last are first.

This year Easter falls straight down into a grieving, frightened, insecure world.  One where we have been forced into silence and solitude.  The wonderful writer Arundhati Roy recently called this pandemic "a portal, a gateway between this world and the next".  In this time of quiet separation we have the time to ponder what we want to carry with us into this next world.  What will we set down? What will we hold tighter?  We have a lot of decisions to make. 

 Perhaps we've all been given a second chance to get it right.
  I have to believe that.  
After all Easter is synonymous with hope.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Black Swans

Black Swans

Long before any of us were walking around, people were sure about many things.  The earth was flat.  The surest way to cure a migraine was to drill a hole into your head.  Evil spirits lived inside brussels sprouts.  Women could become infertile if they did too much thinking.  And black swans did not exist.

That last surety was disproven in 1697 when a group of Dutch explorers spied black swans floating along a river in Western Australia.  Minds were blown.  Certainties were questioned. Knowledge was gained.

Some are calling this moment in time our very own black swan experience.  Many things that were so sure and so safe only weeks ago now seem as fragile as dust.  Much of what we thought we knew is only a memory now, and we struggle to make sense of this new reality, knowing, even as our brains fight to reject the idea, that things will never be quite the same again.

The Songwriter and I are two of the fortunate ones; we already work from home.  Our three dogs are simply delighted with all the walks they're getting every single day now.  But as my head hits the pillow every night, my thoughts swiftly travel to those wonderful people who own the tiny Mexican restaurant we've been frequenting for decades, the charming couple who own the gem of an inn in the Highlands of Scotland, the tiny bookshop on the tiny street, the dog groomer, the favorite waitress, the bakery owner.  There's no getting around it; so many lives are being affected in so many life-altering ways.

Deep in my soul, I have known for awhile that we were heading for change - abrupt and irrevocable change.  There was simply too much greed, too much contempt, too much focus on the things that have never mattered.  Science was ignored, faith distorted, selfishness applauded, divisiveness engineered.  We were due for a reckoning, I suppose.  And what we're left with when this all ends - and it will end - will depend on the decency and humanity of every citizen of the world.

Tribalism is as ancient an idea as some of those insane ones up in that first paragraph.  This crisis has revealed that insanity by showing us - in technicolor, in real time - that we live and breathe, suffer and die, together.  The videos of Italians singing out from their windows, the doctors dancing together in Iran, the shopkeepers in Georgia opening their stores early so the elderly can shop safely.  No one is separate; no one is immune.  Our planet is tiny.  Perhaps we know that now.

One of the sweet people I follow on Instagram posted this yesterday and I thought it bore repeating here. 

"And the people stayed home.  And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still.  And listened more deeply.  Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.  Some met their shadows.  And the people began to think differently.  And the people healed.  And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.  And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed."
Kitty O'Meara

Help your neighbors. 
Stay safe, stay inside, and stay hopeful.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Puppies and Patriots

Puppies and Patriots

Say hello to George!
I know, I know, three dogs is excessive.  But we'd been keeping an eye out for a playmate for our gentle giant, Andrew.  Then, without fanfare, an email landed in my inbox last Wednesday with a photograph of this wee chap and the dye was set.  Despite many applications for him, we were the lucky ones chosen and now, a mere ten days later, it seems George was always part of the family.  Apple finds him amusing, but Andrew plays with him constantly, and the sight of an 103 lb dog playing with a 10.5 lb puppy is entertaining beyond measure.  No one knows exactly which breed is dominant is this little fellow, though the vet believes he's primarily a wheaten terrier.  He does have pretty big feet, and he's seriously fluffy.  More photos of him can be found on my Instagram page. 

Also, work has begun at Random House on the cover of my novel, 
I'll share a photo when I have it.  The release will be January 2021 and it's all very exciting.  I am now hard at work on my second book.  Three big dogs sleeping under my desk can only help this all-consuming process.

And finally, yesterday was a brutal day, both for lovers of the US Constitution and an united Europe.  The faux impeachment trial of our president and the official onset of Brexit in the UK converged on the same day, a dark alignment of stars that will change the course of both our countries for generations.  Unlike US citizens, who have a chance to redirect their disastrous direction at the ballot box in November, those in Britain will have a rougher road.  This editorial gracefully expresses the truth and consequences of Brexit.

And, while I could write my feelings on the events of the week here in my own country, I'll instead turn to two of our founding fathers for their thoughts.  There is a reason our constitution has stood strong for 200 years.  These men anticipated our current predicament.  

From Alexander Hamilton....

"The truth unquestionably is, that the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion...
When a man unprincipled in private life, desperate is his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits - despotic in his ordinary demeanor - known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty - when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity - to join in the cry of danger to liberty - to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government, bringing it under suspicion - to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day - It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may 'ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.'"

And, from Thomas Paine, whose words express my feelings so succinctly:

"I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance
 to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man."

Love and Grace to you all.