• travel,  writing

    150,000 words

    I was inspired by Chalk the Sun’s Julie Christine, as I often am, to get moving again on The Novel, which I put down after Camp Nanowrimo a few months back when life got very busy.  She posted about the manuscript of her first novel, which is near a word count that the manuscript of my first novel is currently at.  She also mentioned a functionality of Scrivener that I hadn’t explored before, which is the target function.  Now, I am greeted each day by a progress bar, reminding me that I need to write my thousand words a day if I want to reach the end of the novel by the deadline that I have set myself.  Butt-in-chair indeed.

    We have been away for the Labor Day weekend to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.  I booked us a trip to the middle of nowhere in the Catskills, which has excellent trout fishing.  Although my Beloved is the fisherman, I did this rather selfishly, because I knew that this would give me hours each day to myself to write without distraction.  It is the vacation that I was hoping to be able to take this year — me in the middle of nowhere with nothing but my laptop, with questionable Internet access to remove distractions.  This has largely worked and I’ve gotten a fair amount done, though it’s never as much as I imagine myself doing.  I haven’t been working solely on The Novel, but also on polishing my portfolio of short fiction, which is more difficult to count progress with.  Reading and rereading and editing does take a lot of time, but it doesn’t increase your word count.

    All the same, the weekend has been a good practice of Butt-in-Chair, or, in this case, Butt-on-Bed, with the windows all wide open, listening to the dog next door and the crickets all around us.  There have been deer and rabbits running across the yard in front of the cabin, which faces an apple orchard.  My Beloved, reliving his misspent youth, stole a few apples.  Today, I went wading in the stream to visit the fish that My Beloved has been trying (unsuccessfully, alas) to catch. I saw fish as large as my forearm swimming by.  We think they might be brook trout.  Yesterday we went to the Catskills Fly Fishing Museum and watched a fly tying demonstration and visited their museum. I was really taken with the art of fly tying — there were certain similarities to the fiber arts — and some of the flies in the museum really beggared the imagination as to how they were physically crafted. Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned was that people started raising chickens specifically to make better feathers for tying, much as different breeds of sheep are raised for fiber production versus eating. (I know which I’d rather be…)  We have a book and kit for fly tying at home.  I may well try it.  Or I may just take up standing in streams, watching fish swim by.

    We’ll be packing up in the morning and heading back home and we’ve been away long enough that I’ll be glad to go.  (I may admit here to a slightly codependent relationship with my cat.) But I am feeling recharged and back on track with The Novel, which I’d been avoiding. I have three weeks before my next semester begins and I am looking to really increase my word count before it happens. With the work I’ve done this weekend, and the recharging of my batteries, I think I’m back on the right track. I keep repeating to myself Margaret Atwood’s best advice about writing:  Finish the damn book.  

    Yes, yes, I think I will.

  • travel

    Goodbye to Maine

    We’ve been vacationing this last week in southern Maine with a few generations of my family and some extended relations, which has been an extraordinarily necessary escape from the ordinary.  It has somehow been quite a long time since I’ve had a vacation beyond a day or two and taking a full two weeks to decompress and do something other than worry about my daily responsibilities has been a good reminder of what life can be when you let it.

    The days have not been particularly adventurous, but they have been full.  Yesterday we visited the Strawbery Banke museum, which is a collection of historic houses from a neighborhood in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The neighborhood once directly faced the water, but over time the land took over.  About sixty years ago, in order to save the neighborhood from condominiums, it was purchased as a historical site and has been preserved and restored ever since.  Being the history buff that I am, I am a huge fan of historical houses, but I had never seen an installation quite like this.  Each building represents a different era, authentic to the structure, but not necessarily even in the same century as the building next to it.  Going through many of the exhibits with my grandfather was particularly excellent, as there were items on display that he remembered from his childhood.  It’s a pricy place to get into, but I could have stayed all day and that’s not even because there was a room full of weaving looms that they let people work on.

    Yesterday’s adventure was the annual Strawberry Festival held in South Berwick, Maine, where I ate the largest piece of strawberry shortcake of my life, and enjoyed every minute of it.  We followed that up by going to the beach in York and dinner in Ogunquit (isn’t that where The Stand begins?), which made for a beautiful and perfect day.  The sky was so blue that it was breathtaking.  The clouds were perfect shades of white as they scuttled across the sky.  When the wedding party passed us on the beach on the way to take photographs on the playground by the beach, it was just an added feather in the cap of the day.

    And so it has gone, day after day.  Just one glorious relaxed day after another.  Tomorrow we return to reality, but I know that I’ll be keeping a piece of Maine with me for some time to come.

  • scootering,  travel

    Annabelle Lee


    I forgot through the long winter how good it is to be driving a scooter on a warm day.  You become painfully aware of how much there is in the world to be smelled, tasted, listened to, looked at, touched, and comprehended before you die–a lifetime in every blink of the eye–and you find yourself twisting the throttle until she surges under you like a river, wanting to get to it all, all at once.  You begin to fear death on the prettiest days.

    — Peter S. Beagle, I See By My Outfit

    I have been separated this week from my new scooter, a gorgeous blue Vespa GTS 300 named Annabelle Lee.  I found last night that I am not bearing this separation as well as I might; my dreams were about fitting my new helmet on and going for rides on long winding country highway roads.  This is probably because this week I am finding myself surrounded by winding country highway roads, as I’m away in the countryside of Maine.

    It is a beautiful place and a vacation that has been long overdue for me.  My last vacation was our wedding, which was an amazing time, but not precisely restful and nearly a year ago.  And the last few weeks have been extremely busy, between getting my motorcycle license and making my acquaintance with Annabelle Lee, my business trip to L.A. and my brother’s graduation from high school on Friday.  I have not had much time to breathe, except for the moments I’ve stolen to work on becoming a better scooter rider.  It’s no small wonder then that my moments on my scooter have been joyous and filled with an enormous sense of freedom.  There is something about driving a scooter that turns the entire world into a giant adventure.  I’m discovering things about roads that I’ve traveled hundreds of times before, because I’m learning how to navigate them in an entirely new way.  I’m becoming much more intimate with the details because they matter so much more than do they in a car.  There’s a bump here, a curve there, a turn that I have to press the handlebars this way for.  And the air, the amount of air that flows in your face and over your body, creates a sense of exhilaration that I have never experienced in a car.

    To get through my week of separation, I am using my relaxation time to read I See By My Outfit, by Peter S. Beagle.  It’s a beautifully written account of two identically bearded friends who traveled from New York to San Francisco on scooters in the sixties, stopping in cities and towns along the way to play a little guitar and talk to people.  He’s probably more well-known for his book The Last Unicorn and I find that I am really enjoying the added dimension of scooter-rider to my idea of fantasy novelist.  The writing is beautiful and every once in a while, you come across a passage that describes that indescribable thing; that feeling that makes you want to grab every stranger you see and get them on a scooter so that they can be as in love with the world as you are.


  • nature,  travel

    Cherry Blossoms

    Cherry BlossomI am down in Virginia for a lightning trip, where I am staying with a very good, old friend. The weekend is beautiful, with temperatures in the mid-seventies and the kind of bright, blue sky that you never actually see in New York. Much of what I miss about Virginia is the endless sky that’s cribbed in only by the mountains – and I am getting a lot of that.

    We went to see the cherry blossoms today, which I have not done since I was about eight years old. The cherry blossom trees were gifted to the United States by Japan in 1912 and, as an American born in Japan and raised in D.C., I have always felt a special kinship with them. The festival is largely ignored by D.C. natives because of the crowds, but at the beginning of April every year, I think about the trees and how lovely it is that a huge festival is put on because trees are blooming. I have not been in town for it in nearly a decade, but since I happened to be here at the right time, I couldn’t miss the opportunity.

    The world is in bloom here. I forget how there are trees everywhere, even in the city and along the highways. There are cherry blossoms in shades from pink to mauve, dripping magnolias, Bradford pears and the white of the dogwoods. I didn’t have the names of these things when I lived here, because I had never grown anything. Now I am older, returned as a tourist, with a new appreciation and a greener thumb. It was a fine day, filled with the energy that spring brings. It is nearly appropriate that we are venturing towards the halfway mark of Camp Nanowrimo and that I am still on track, birthing my own characters, creating, blooming. Spring is here, with all that that brings. It is my favorite time of the year.

  • art,  culture,  travel

    Joseph, Oregon

    Mutton Buster by searchingbuddha
    Mutton Buster, a photo by searchingbuddha on Flickr.

    I have been off in the western mountains for the last week, doing a fair impersonation of frolicking in the wilderness. I have climbed mountains and swam in a mountain lake, hiked trails and gone to a rodeo. (Well. You know. When in Rome.)

    I bought a cowboy hat.

    I’ve been getting in touch with my western roots, which actually makes a fair amount of sense when I think about the fact that my entire family is from west of the Mississippi River. I am very definitely an East Coast person; I grew up in Maryland, then moved to Virginia, then New York. I like my humidity and small mountains, my crowds and people who say what they mean, even when they’re saying it mean.

    But big skies and mountain lakes are compelling. Joseph is an artist’s town; a place where it’s cheap enough to live that you can make a living doing art. It’s remote enough to be surrounded by beauty and wilderness. It makes me want to spin and knit and write novels. It’s an absolute inspiration, a refocusing on the things that I want to accomplish before I die.

    In other words, an absolutely excellent vacation. I’m ready to do it again…and why, yes, I *am* free on Tuesday.

  • nature,  travel

    Stockton, NJ

    I’ve come to realize that I really, really like colonial style.  Big red wallpaper with big red stripes, pineapples everywhere, houses made of stone.  The whole country estate, pastoral ideal, yeoman farmer thing.

    But, y’know, without the oppression and slavery that seems to come with it.

    We spent the weekend at a lovely B&B in Stockton, NJ, which is right next to the Delaware River (as in, “Washington crossing the”).  We haven’t had much time to ourselves, just the two of us, and His birthday is coming up next week, so we thought we’d get away.  It was just lovely.  We stayed in a converted colonial farmhouse.  It had sheep.  And pineapples.  And bizarrely shaped canopy beds with netting over it that we spent a good amount of time trying to reverse engineer.

    Maybe the colonial thing is just an extension of my obsession with fiber arts.

    We also rented bicycles and acquired ourselves a picnic lunch and spent much of Saturday just pedaling and trying to pick the perfect place to splash down to the water to eat our sandwiches.  I haven’t been very hungry since the weather became hot, so I’m afraid I didn’t do my sandwich much justice at all, but I had a grand time eating it and splashing my feet in the river from on top of a log.  Sitting on logs makes me really happy.

    Exhausted from our cycling, we took a nap and then woke up to go into town, where there was a music festival going on at one of the local restaurants.  (All the restaurants were amazingly good — and expensive — which goes to show that their economy is tourism.)  We had one of the best meals of our lives, while watching two youngins in skimpy bathing suits make out (and then some) on the one corner in the center of town.  I mean, where else would you?

    We took a walk out onto one of the many bridges spanning the Delaware and watched the moon over the river.  It would have been perfect, if someone hadn’t disappeared in the river earlier, so our romantic talk was punctuated with sirens and an airboat, which is the loudest thing you can imagine on a river that still.  Not much for ambiance, but the moon was still nice.  There’s just something about a full moon on a river.  It reminds me very much of where I grew up, which is just a happy thing.

    By Sunday, it was definitely time to get back to the home front and check on the cat, who has been recovering from an illness.  We stopped at Washington’s Crossing and oohed and ahhed at the “Washington crossed the Delaware near here” signs and took lots of pictures of the river and the geese of the river.  It was a beautiful weekend away, filled with many naps and quality time and nature and pretty memories.

    But you’re not getting me on that river one on of those colonial boats.  That current’s swift.

  • art,  feminism,  new york,  ocean,  relationships,  travel

    Patton Oswalt, Stomp and the Opening Comedian

    red-wineThis weekend was very busy, since I was entertaining a friend that was visiting from out of town. The highlight was seeing Patton Oswalt who is an absolutely brilliant comedian from Sterling, Virginia (Virginia pride, whoo!). You probably wouldn’t like him if crude language offends you, but he has some very smart things to say. It was cool to see him live.

    Less cool was the opening comedian, who referred to all the women in his jokes as bitches, which was particularly depressing since most of the audience responded well to it. Apparently jokes about how completely stupid and useless women are are still in. I’m prefer smart comedy, not just meanness, so he was kind of a boring boor. But a boor with a very happy audience, which made me want to hide my head in the sand for the rest of my life. It made me drink far too much Shiraz, too.

    Fortunately, we went to see Stomp before my hangover, which was pretty cool. The idea behind it is that you can make rhythm from the most ordinary objects. Once you have enough people involved, this becomes really cool. Rhythm is such an essential part of being alive and is absolutely everywhere when you stop to listen for it – in language, in the sounds of our vehicles, in the waves of the ocean. Being able to hear and respond to rhythm is so intrinsic to what makes us such amazing creatures — when we can manage to treat each other with respect, that is.

  • politics,  travel

    One Cat in Search of Warmer Weather

    That would be me, by the way.

    Jamaica is one heavenly place. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen somewhere so incredibly beautiful.

    We had a good time. However, we were not blind to what the effects of our economy are on Jamaica – the hotel that we stayed at was very empty. The streets in Montego Bay were also empty, outside of the morning and evening rush hours. The beach we frequented had plenty of space to choose from, despite being a pretty small public beach.

    The aluminum and bauxite trades, the news told us, have nearly come to a standstill, because it is so dependent on American purchasers and my country is just not buying. We saw lots of construction that looked like it had been abandoned, hotels half built, the support beams rusting in the sun. The Jamaican diaspora is a severe cultural problem in the best of economies – now it appears that we’ve entered an economy that might possibly be the worst.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I would dearly love to see a world where resources were fairly distributed, where the entire world doesn’t fall just because our economy takes a downturn. What would the world look like if colonization and imperialism hadn’t been such a dominant force for the last 300 years? Would we all eat more and play more? And how do we get there from where we are?

  • amusement,  travel

    Happy VDay, Mon

    My Big Irishman and myself are off to Jamaica for a long weekend.  I admit that my brain is already there, waiting for my body to catch up.  The weather has been fairly warm, by New York mid-winter standards, but I’ve still had to wear a coat.  My feet are aching for warm air and sandals.

    My Big Irishman bought us snorkeling gear as an anniversary present.  It’s perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  (And answering, “what size mens shoe do you wear?” was pretty high on the entertainment scale.)

    In preparation, I’ve been reading everything I can about Jamaica, which will no doubt go to waste, since we’ll be close to the beach and the waters.  And I have some snorkeling to do.  And lizard impersonation.