I know the last postcard arrived a couple weeks ago, but I am still reveling in the variety and riches of a month of postcards from around the world. Yes, I received postcards from Canada, UK, and Australia as well as from within the U.S.! And of course I sent that many out into the void, sometimes with exhuberance and sometimes with a little trepidation. But borrowing from William Stafford’s sage advice, I lowered my standards as needed. I also discovered some new companions in poetry whose presence on Facebook and professional webpages allows me to cultivate a continuing rapport. The ‘void” is actually inhabited–who knew?
This brings me to my “take-away” for this year’s postcard poetry fest. Maybe because this was my third year, it felt more personal. I tracked the names on my list as the cards came in, ticking off each name and trying to connect each name to the poem in hand. I had a lot of fun making the postcards epistolary , that is, inserting “you” into the text which often strengthened the impact. It tickled me to allude to these imaginary connections.
I am happy to share that I have been invited to the APPF Portland reading for their 2016 anthology of poems: Mother Foucault’s Bookstore, Oct. 27–that’s a Friday, at 7:00 p.m. Come join us and take some of the anonymity out of an event you might really enjoy as a participant. (Registration begins in mid-July via Paul Splabman–just google August Postcard Poetry Fest and you are on your way.)
After admiring the wild flowers up the trail yesterday, it’s a bit surprising to wake up to a frost, and no piddling dust of ice—I have been up an hour and the “white wash” of grasses is holding. The sun has yet to make it over the ridge; this cabin rests in the vale, as N. tells me, which means the sunlight comes late.
We found the heater late in the evening, disbelieving we would need such a thing. The “solar” kitchen-dining radiated tremendous warmth earlier in the afternoon. But by nightfall, it had all been sucked through the floorboards. I sat under a wool throw, reading until my teeth began to chatter. Then we headed for our respective bedrolls and tucked in.
The quiet out here is such a gift. Road noise is distant and intermittent, mostly drowned out by the rush of the creek. I was surprised I didn’t sleep more soundly. I may have to crawl back under the covers to warm my toes. Perhaps we could break some chairs into kindling and light a fire? Shades of Doctor Zhivago… No, I don’t think it will come to that.
N. and I are finding our way through the quirks of hospitality vs. privacy, taking turns wandering the trails or writing quietly and, alternately, sharing insights and exchanging stories. She sat out on the bridge in the early morning while I breakfasted and set to writing. Then I stepped out to wander the trail at the end of the drive, a slow curve upward, hugging the ridge. I wanted to see the trees and flowers in the morning light which was just showing itself in the meadow at the base of the trail. I took photos to add to my collection of green and turned around when the trail began to descend.
Wet shoes and socks bake on the sill in the sun as the frost burns off the grasses in a cloud of drifting vapor. I sit down in the arm chair to read and can’t keep my eyes open so I slip back into bed for an hour without explanation. None needed.
Per the plant guide on the table, I’ve seen larkspur, yellow wood violet, bleeding hearts, false Solomon’s seal, columbine, and one unidentified pink flower—five-petaled on what almost looks like a raspberry plant with pointy serrated leaves. I’ll ask N. when she gets back. And let us not forget the giant leaves of the trillium, blossoms already spent. (Early or late, this is still the Trillium Project.)
I have been berating myself for not getting out, even in my poetry. And here I am, in the woods where I belong. Home and not home. My only clock is on the corner of the computer screen and when I glance in that direction I am often surprised. Times moves differently here, or perhaps I move differently when I am outside of time—no schedule but my own and the rise and fall of the sun.
It is a luxury to inhabit this large clean open space without interruption. Green all around me, I begin to take pictures as I walk–insurance against the fickle nature of weather. As I look into the viewfinder, I see more closely the interrelationships of plant to plant, plant to flower, plant to tree, tree to tree to tree… . Their limbs are lines to me today; I look for striking compositions—parallels, diagonals, intersections, repetitions.
In the orchard, the fruit trees’ scabby bark bends, one limb around another. Flexible problem-solvers, they find their way to nourishment and fruition.
The maple are clearly about the rise. They drop their arms under the weight of moss, while their crowns soar into the blue.
The ferns crowd the understory in disarray, old and dead gathered with hearty green standards and nubile fiddlehead in a raucous profusion.
Cottonweed goes a-sailing across the green and sea-blue sky.
Hum of insects is drowned out by the sounds of running water as I approach the bridge over the creek. Tree branches airily screen the view with delicate branches and a smattering of leaves. Light glimmers between leaf shadows; water rushes.
As the year crashes headlong to a close with the dark siphoning the serotonin from my brain in 7-11 Big Gulps, and the promise of Sostice only a week away, I wonder will I muddle through my pile of mending before the new year? What about the sister collages waiting for edges?
I did clean up my poetry page, if you care to check out the quick links to my published poems.
I did find a magazine for my first published short story (The Muse, The Last Line Magazine, Winter Edition, from Blue Cubicle Press). Small victories. 🙂
And my poetry students did read and share their completed chapbooks on December 6th–that’s a big victory! Kudos to Steve Blevans, Sandy Lizut, Carolyn Sparling, Nancy Jamieson, Karen Jones, Linda Gelbrich, Linda Varsell Smith, Freda Fredriksen, Jana Seeliger, and Pam Wilson!
I wish each of you a gentle transition through the potential mania of holidays to the promise of new in the new year. Be kind to yourself and remember, you are enough.
A wealth of apples has yielded a shelf full of apple sauce, a freezer box of more apple sauce, dried apples that vanished faster than I could stash them in the pantry, a miserable attempt to can apple pie filling, and lastly, today’s Pie-O-Rama: one tart, two crumb-topped pies, and one double crust apple pie deluxe. No, I have not run out of apples, so this may not be the season’s final apple post…
Scheduled as a team event with three aspiring cooks disguised as foreign exchange students, it became a simple apprenticeship with one student, Trang. At home in the kitchen but new to American cuisine, she was eager to learn all about pies, translating the recipes in her mind to what her Viet Nam coffee shop might be able to duplicate. (So sad to hear that apples were out of reach—too expensive to import. She would have to manage with mango or papaya—oh, the sacrifices an artist must make !)
I began early with an apple tart loosely based on Martha Stewart’s recipe (Pies and Tarts, 1985). I found a rectangular tart pan hiding on the shelf above the washer and a jar of apple butter from last season in the freezer. Also, I snaked a jar of cherries in their own syrup from the back of the fridge (gift from a friend)—the syrup would make a great finish to the baked tart!
The food processor allowed me to whip up a double crust recipe (Pate Brise, Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts), and then wrap and rest /refrigerate the two discs of dough before rolling out one for the tart. After lining the crust into the tart pan, I warmed the apple butter just enough to melt a tablespoon of added butter, then spread it over the bottom of the crust. I selected the rosiest apples, skins on for added color, sliced them thinly (about ¼ “) and spread them in an alternating pattern on top of the apple butter.
Dusted them with granulated sugar. Then into the oven. After 40 minutes, I pulled the tart out and brushed on a light layer of cherry syrup just to keep the apples moist and to add a little tartness. Voila! A very beautiful display of yummy appleness!
Trang arrived in time to begin the second round of crusts which we stowed in the fridge while we prepared the crumb topping. I selected a gluten-free topping because of the nuts–I’m not averse to a bit of nutrition in my desserts as long as it doesn’t compromise the flavor. So we used almond flour, chopped pecans, oats, browns sugar, and a few tablespoons of butter. Trang learned just how much they might affect her mix—the butter bits started to glom together into a single crumb–but we were quick to set the mix aside until we needed to use it.
Then we took the crusts out of the fridge and began to process the apples.
I cored as she peeled and we continued to peel and slice until we had enough for two pies—I had to add a couple more apples to be sure there were enough; I like a heaping pie of apples! We added a couple tablespoons of sugar, some lemon juice, and cinnamon, to each of our bowls of apples. Then it was time to roll out the dough. I want to mention that it was very useful for me to model what Trang was to do, just before she needed to do it—riding in tandem without the bike! We took pics to record the process so she could share it with her friends.
The dough for the crusts was easy to handle, thank goodness. I told her I have cried over pie crusts before, but that was a long time ago before America’s Test Kitchens and food processors. Meanwhile, we checked the thickness at different edges and made adjustments. Pie plates were lined and filled with apples. Time for the crumb.
I reminded Trang that when the apples bake, they will sink a bit which will allow the topping to cover more efficiently; her larger crumb will come right in the oven.
We topped both pies and put them in to bake. Very satisfying so far!
Our final endeavor was to make a two crust pie, Ken’s preference. This time, after coring, peeling, and slicing three varieties of apples, we added a couple tablespoons of agave, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and two tablespoons of butter bits. I rolled out the bottom crust and filled the pie. Trang rolled out the top crust and together we applied it, folded and fluted the edges, vented the top with slits, and put it in the oven just as the other two pies were coming out. The house was filled with the most wonderful aroma!
Clock was ticking and tummies were rumbling, so Ken and I scrounged for some lunch nibbles—he even shared his Alaska reindeer sausage—we ate leftover roasted rosemary green beans and carrots, yesterday’s baked salmon, some sweet potato crackers, and raspberries thick as my thumb,(as an aside, if you can imagine! And aren’t leftovers wonderful?!) It was not so much that we didn’t dare to have dessert before the meal as that we were waiting on another friend, a tart baker in her own right, and didn’t want to slice the tart without her.
Party in full assembly, the tart consumption was an event laden with superlatives. Will I ever be able to duplicate the apple butter or the perfectly tender crust? It was a great closing to a very active morning in the kitchen. Trang took one crumb pie home; I will take the other to another connoisseur later this afternoon. Pie-O-Rama, indeed! So much more fun with an adept apprentice!
For one week, I kept my own company off the grid—no emails or net-surfing, just the blank page, scads of delicious vegetables, and the companionship of green outside the window. I did wander under the canopy of oaks during my morning walks which strengthened me in the old way, as if I were still walking in the woods of my childhood. One evening, I sat on the terrace with my hosts, Michael Hoeye and Martha Banyas, listened to their stories of the land and of their art and read to them a little from my work in progress. The clarity of intention was visible in every nook of the gardens as well as in the beautifully maintained house, studio, and cottage. Continue reading Far Lookout Writing Retreat, Oak Grove→
I am writing a postcard poem a day and receiving many postcards from writers across the nation. Check back in September for some wonderful examples. Meanwhile, enjoy the last of a beautiful summer! I am canning applesauce, dehydrating apple slices, and learning to make apple pie filling for those dark days of winter. Next week: Far Lookout Writing Retreat in the Portland environs–a small cottage all to myself! happy writing 🙂
I am basking in a wave of satisfaction, having just watched the Red Box movie, Authors Anonymous; completed reading Michener’s The Novel; and visited the Darkside Theater to see Words and Pictures with Juliet Binoche and Oliver Kline. I like all this stuff of the creative life swirling around in my consciousness. I remind myself that, although I am not writing much this week, I am nourishing my creative life which can only help me to better do my work.
The tongue-in-cheek comedy of Authors Anonymous explores the dynamics of a writing group when the seemingly least likely member lands an agent, a publisher, and movie rights in quick succession. Jealousy rages as the remaining members reexamine their commitment to their art and the ego that stymies or propels them forward. This is a very funny romp but not so far from the truth. Not a BIG movie, but entertaining and insightful for those of us who strive to live by the pen.
Surely my writing groups would love this! I don’t mean to suggest that our circles are all about competition, but consciously or not, we are modeling for each other the progress and pitfalls of the writing life, and this is a good thing. We mimic each other in the sense that we internalize each other’s voices like friendly angels leaning over the keyboard to coax and coach us along.
And some weeks, we don’t seem to accomplish very much. A couple people cancel. No one has pages. Then we can look like a bunch of posers who are pretending to be writers, but that’s just an impression, not the truth. The truth is that we have demanding lives that enrich our writing and keep us honest. We cannot shirk our responsibility to live those lives fully.
Michener has divided the book by role: writer, editor, critic, and reader. He reveals to us through each voice (and personality) the path of intellectual development that leads the person to his chosen profession, the personal and professional pitfalls, and the overlapping concerns of a small publishing house, an editor, her writers, (including the critic), and the reader who comes to embrace all of them.
The author gives the reader a great education regarding the publishing business, though technologically dated, (copyright 1991); publishing is a rapidly evolving enterprise, even within the novel.
Yes, I enjoyed the descriptions of the Pennsylvania Dutch, the small prep school, and the New York publishing house, as well as the tragedy that unfolded and the twists and turns of each person’s life; Michener is a masterful storyteller. But being a story about books and book writing is an especially big draw for me. (Remember Elizabeth Kostova’s, The Historian? Umberto Ecco’s, The Name of the Rose?)
This book was nourishing in several ways: good storytelling, excellent content that directly relates to the writing life, and a peek into the mind of an editor which is a role I am eager to study.
This is a movie about two teachers in a high-achieving prep school who challenge one another to prove the supremacy of their art, one above the other, words versus pictures. It is really just a ruse to get both of them and their students motivated, to push them out of their comfort zones. The personalities are both charming and difficult—the writer is a drunk and the painter is beleaguered with rheumatoid arthritis.
The fire to create is central. It is very exciting to see their creative processes on the screen. In watching the writer pitted against the painter, I saw my own internal dialogue come to life. Well, it isn’t so much a dialogue as the multiplicity of artistic expression. I want to reclaim my brushes and palette, and I’m not speaking in metaphor. This movie left me itching to paint. I want to hold a big fat brush loaded with paint, like Juliet Binoche, (yes, she really is a painter who paints in this movie!), and twirl around on my swivel chair across a broad canvas. What a yummy thought. This could be the summer that I revisit my stash of paints—I said that out loud? So be it.
In addition, I appreciated the conclusion as the two artists come into alignment. Romance, yes, but more than that, they both value what the other has to offer, painter and poet. That gives me a quiet thrill.
All three of these sources of inspiration honored the writing/creative life, even the spoof. It is validating to realize that the creative life is a subject in contemporary literature and film. We are not talking about da Vinci, but just us regular folk who do what we are compelled to do which is to create. And we struggle to get it right because it is an opportunity to communicate something essential or profound. Many of us are lucky enough or wise enough to surround ourselves with a community of writers/artists for support . (I include the artists we meet on the page or the screen.) This is the life.
Shades of the old country I have only known through literature: my living room filled with family, the encampment of the Olympians (a.k.a Sequimmers) lasted for three days. Shades drawn or opened, we rested and rallied in pleasant self-directed cycles reminding me of the “nap room” in the old house in Batavia where as tired grandchildren we slithered under light blankets, the slats of double-tiered wooden shutters unfolded and drawn closed in a startling clackity-clack to block the light of mid-afternoon.
My brother’s wife dead-headed our roses and planted petunias with her quiet attention to green; gifted me with berries
and tools so that we could make jam together; and voiced her appreciation of the good food generously and often, her smile full of light. My little brother walked in and breathed a sigh, three times expressing his pleasure in the calm and comfort of my home; ventured out with my spouse for maple bars and fresh donuts which he ate with gusto; and shared recipes as together we concocted a fresh apricot and olive chicken. Their lovely daughter entranced the dog (a mutual admiration), prepped veggies with me, and watched her dad closely as he and I walked back in time through the haunts of our earlier lives.
We sent them off this morning with a sheaf of poems, a flat of tomato plants, my husband’s landscape photograph from Egegik, and a disc of dog clips which threaten to inspire a launch of The Red Dog Blog.Their gift of peace rose blossoms in the jelly jar at the table mark an opening for continued conversations.