A few photos and notes from our July 4th week camping venture with the babies:
1. The Dogtor, holding Z and gazing out over Lake George from the point from our camp site.
2. F, in complete camp mode - faux tattoo, fresh from a nudie swim, reading a good book (The Maggie B, compliments of Jamie Quatro).
3. Me and Z, who is holding up an accidental OK sign on the boat, which she loved, and which often caused her to spontaneously fall asleep.
Of note: Despite the unsafe rocky terrain, high winds, and drowning potential of a lakeside camp site, I got in some reading time, and read Stuart Nadler's INCREDIBLE novel WISE MEN. It comes out in February, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. It put me in a 2 day book coma. More on that soon.
Now - onto doing mountains of dirty laundry, disposing of lukewarm cooler food, and finding creative ways to use boatloads of kale, cucumbers, and zucchini from the garden. Oh yeah - and writing that novel, SHEPHERD, WOLF.
Happy Place: A rocky island in the midst of Lake George with two healthy babies and a tent that will, hours after this photo, withstand a freak 65 mph gust of wind, and the weight of the kitchen tent which was flipped onto it.
Not So Happy Place: 2 crying babies in a half-crushed tent, in their pjs, half-sleeping on you, totally freaked out by your racing heart and the headlamps from the 2 veterinarians outside suturing the rain fly and reinforcing broken tent poles with duct tape.
Happy Place Revisited: Realizing that everyone is somehow safe, you have a week's worth of delicious food in action packers and coolers, the lake water is refreshing, and the loons are calling.
Classes at Bennington are over. Grades are in. I already miss the sound of people listening to me. I got choked up when I drove away from campus.
My students were interested in the writing life, so I summarized some thoughts, which I'll share with you for fun:
Be generous - to yourself and others. Don't just be "a writer." Get your hands dirty: go out and have hard conversations, live abroad, get your heart broken, work weird jobs - become an expert in something. READ. Have big adventures like Beryl Markham (but write your own books, damnit). Indulge obsessions. Love words. Only make lives with people who support your work and believe in you. Don't take yourself or your writing too seriously. Take your writing seriously. Only doubt yourself when editing. Eschew adverbs, mist, mirrors, and self-righteousness. Be curious.
WORK at it - no really. WORK.
Embrace rejection; learn from it. Be tenacious.
Oh yeah. And bow down to the muse when you have to. Sometimes you have to. May she scream loudly in your ear when you need her.
I know I've been quiet lately, but spring is at once very busy and full of reflection time. You see, I get all tangled up about spring. During the Vermont winter, the southerner in me longs for the warm seasons. I picture the garden and dinners al fresco, white wine with ice cubes, babies toddling nude in the grass. But spring also stirs up a little melancholy.
Three years ago, in May, we lost the Dogtor's mother (above, left), just as I gave birth to our first daughter. This spring we lost Mom Mom, the Dogtor's grandmother (above right). Both women were inspirations for me, and I find myself wanting to share the good stuff with them - the babies, the writing, the Dogtor in his prime.
We put Captain Nemo, our first dog, down in April. One of my friends took her own life two weeks ago. I have always given birth in spring, and the weather, the scent in the air, makes me restless as I remember the sleepless nights, the profound changes I've come around to as the Vermont winter fades.
There are gardens to put in, final papers to grade. Bebe Z is walking. I sold my novel to Scribner. When I run, often at twilight, I am bowled over by Vermont's natural beauty, the vernal pools teeming with peepers and red-winged black birds. There is an embarrassment of good stuff in my life right now, but that doesn't keep me from getting a knot in my throat when I'm out on the porch alone, sun setting.
Thinking time is writing time.
Hedy Zimra was my mentee at Bennington. She was a talented and adventurous artist, vibrant and remarkable, a generous friend to so many of us, and this week the Bennington community is mourning her.
I will never step foot in the student center or on the Commons' patio without thinking of Hedy, and the conversations I had with her, unique and strange conversations that I will never have again. She was, in the words of a good friend, entirely singular. She had a soft voice, smart words, and an eccentric sparkle. No one wrote the things Hedy wrote; no one said the things Hedy said.
Pictured Above: The shoes Hedy sent me from China, a pair both of my girls wore, a pair my daughter Z wore the day Hedy died, before I knew. Also me in Hedy's green dress, which she sent for me to wear for my reading in Boston. She was there, and it was the last time I saw her. I was listening to her talk as this picture was taken.
There is so much I loved about her, and so much I didn't know.
For further reading, in words better than my own:
All love to Hedy, all love to her family, and much sadness,
Hi there -
This post is for anyone who attended my reading and talk at SVC today. Two things:
1) You can order my book through Connie Brooks, the amazing proprietrix of Battenkill Books. I will sign it before it gets shipped to you. Thanks for supporting an excellent independent! http://www.battenkillbooks.com/
2)Do your homework! I can't wait to hear how your dinner stories were delivered.
Thanks for listening, reading.
Hello All - While Megan readjusts herself to the VT Homeland (playing with the girls and churning through schoolwork), I thought I'd take the opportunity to a) introduce myself, b) defend my parenting skills while the mom is away, and c) comment on how wonderful it is to watch my life partner go through all this BOLP excitement.
a) Megan refers to me as the Dogtor - call me what you will but don't believe everything she writes about me.
b) Indeed, I was on girl duty for four nights in a row and while their Mom missed them horribly, my hope is that she felt comfortable leaving them in my care. Sure, I may have let our 10 month old bury her head in the side of the beagle while giggling at the cat - but it's not like she found and ate chicken poop in the driveway...or did she? Sure, our 3 year old may have run around the house wearing nothing but a tutu - but it's not like I'd let her blindly go down a 3 story slide...or did I?
c) While the job and children (and dogs/cats/chickens/goats/horse) keep me close to home, I have been lucky enough to see Megan read from BOLP four times thus far. The feeling of watching your spouse up in front of a crowd share her stories is difficult to describe, especially for someone not in the literary world (although fluid therapy texts and laparotomy instructions may prove more exciting than you might think). I marvel at her ease in talking in front of friends and fans - her pre-reading insights, her dedications, her southern accent coming out for moments of southern dialogue, the natural and original way of answering post reading questions. She rocks. She is stunning. She is brilliant.
Is your spouse allowed to gush on your own website? Just in case I'm not, here's Megan trying to climbing a tree:
So please, next time she's reading and I can't be there, send me a picture.
This, according to the Dogtor, is Bebe Z playing peek-a-boo with our mean cat Greta, by burying her face on Monsieur Scooty Beag's back end. Hmmm. The things that happen while Mama is on book tour.
And yeah - that's my tough girl in Carhartt overalls!
Lots of updates in the pipeline, but re-uniting with the bebes and grading papers comes first.
Hi guys -
I'm travelling in the homeland this week! We flew to North Carolina with the girls on Friday. I'm reading at FlyLeaf Books in Chapel Hill tonight, then Quail Ridge in Raleigh tomorrow. I'm jazzed! The sun is warm and the people are friendly.
Here's my favorite photo so far - me in my friend's kitchen with their guinea pig! Love. (You know what I also love? That super-cool, original Craftsman kitchen booth behind me. Swoon!)
It's fun to be in the city. It's fun to EAT in the city, especially when the place you live has few restaurants and even fewer vegetarian options. I had great treats in NYC and Boston this week: pumpkin hummus, roasted eggplant bruschetta, viognier.
But I get hyperstimulated in cities, jumpy and underslept. I was ready to get home to open space, babies, dogs, the scent of pines in my backyard. Healthy-looking birds.
The Dogtor had the perfect city antidote planned for the afternoon I arrived home from the book tour: a walk around Lake Shaftsbury. Then we hit Merck Forest
on Saturday, where we watched sheared sheep bleat their complaints, piglets nip each other, and pullets scatter about a stall. And we ate pancakes for lunch again, because all Vermonters are obsessed with ways to consume maple syrup this time of year.
I like the city, but I am undoubtedly a country mouse. I order my coffee too slow; I don't like crowds, and I get lost easily.