Monthly Archives: March 2013

Learning by Guess and by Gosh

From the perspective of the writing life I now live, it’s easy to look back and see that what I was doing before was all a matter of gathering material. Falling in and out of love, moving around the country, having children, raising children, working in one art form after another before landing on writing. Writing being the biggest catch basin of them all.

Now here comes Easter and all I can think of is how much I miss building my daughters’ baskets. Two little girls, a blond and a brunette, who played along with the Easter bunny story for years because it made me happy. And because they love chocolate, games and treasures too. Somewhere I still have their first baskets. I treasured them and was sorry they ever outgrew them. How enormous they looked, like bassinets! Pale yellow and pale blue, one had a bunny carved on the wooden handle and the other, a duck. The baskets were handmade and I had found them in a gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona. Into these I went out of my way every year to find natural grass, not the cellophane stuff, but more like straw or shredded paper, dyed in pale shades like the baskets.

soap bubble

OK, good grass in the baskets, now what? I put a lot of thought into the contents in an effort to go sparingly on candy. A fine chocolate bunny—they initially preferred white chocolate but over the years I steered them to dark. And then I looked for little gifts that would fit in the baskets: pocket-sized jigsaw puzzles, bracelets, bath salts, lovely soaps, that sort of thing. Topped with a smattering of jelly beans and all tied up with a pretty bow.

Baskets built, girls sleeping, I set to work with an Easter scavenger hunt of sorts. Having cut scores of bunny paw prints out of paper, I lay the prints down starting at their bedroom door then “hopping” all over the house in circles, loops and crazy figure-eights. In the end the paw prints always led to the baskets–whereas if the girls had only “looked up” they most likely would have found their baskets sooner. For years the girls indulged me in this too.

Indulged me more than I ever knew, as I recently overheard one remark to the other that all their Easter candies tasted a bit like soap every year.

I feel bad about that.

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Notes from a Tree Hugger

I was sure something was up when my neighbor first moved in. First of all, it’s a strange house architecturally. On a hill of period Craftsman, Colonial, Victorian and Tudor, up pops this stucco box, cold and contemporary. It looks positively clinical.

The first thing my neighbor wanted to do was take out the grand old maple tree out front. Bereft of leaves, I believe she thought it dead.

“You can’t do that!” we cried. “These trees belong to the city.”

We love our trees for softening and quieting the street–and what we couldn’t say is that it helps to hide her house when full of leaf.

Her hair was colored a Raggedy Ann red then. She came and went in a dark red car. Her outfits at the time were primarily red, black or perhaps purple. These things I noticed.

When she first moved in the shades on her house were drawn, night and day. I noticed that too.

My new neighbor hammered wreaths in that tree out front for decoration before I could stop her. As a Master Gardener, I have to believe that hammering anything into a tree compromises its integrity. Still, I should have spoken up because she has since then only hammered in more ornamentation. The lady collects stuff, or let’s just say, stuff finds her.

But what I found most curious and what led me to my suspicions, were the assorted little dried gourds and pods she placed on the ground wherever she planted anything. I was sure they must mean something….

I think she’s a witch.

There ought to be some way to ask, but I haven’t found it. And here I am, totally amiable to the idea of an earth-based pagan religion. Especially one that honors both Goddess and God, the changing seasons and cycles of the moon. To me there’s a natural balance to natural law.  The law of return, “What you put out, comes back to thee,” is  simply karma to me. Healing with herbs, I don’t have a problem with that. And I would never, ever, hammer ornamental items onto trunks of trees.

Hey, maybe I’m the witch?


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When Life Imitates Art

The first time I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico, I approached the city by driving up from Albuquerque. “Land of Enchantment” passed me by on every license plate, as I was fixed to all the landscape in my field of vision. Face glued to the window, fogging up the glass with my breath and smudging it with my fingers, I was having one of those ecstatic moments–there really ought to be a word for it–when life imitates art.


I was seeing a place where I had never been through the eyes and handiwork of Georgia O’Keeffe. This woman whose life story I knew so well and whose art I had loved for many years. She was out there still, everywhere, in the desert and sagebrush, red rocks and purple hills, on the mesas, trails, and in the enormous clear blue skies, painting it all. I could taste the dryness in the air and smell mesquite burning in the distance. Like the child in Walt Whitman’s poem, “There Was a Child Went Forth,” everything I saw was familiar to me, and I knew a part of me had always been, and would always be, there.

Oh, how I wish I had the word for it, when life and art collide. Paintings, poetry or prose, these are the moments most worth living for, in my experience.

Recently I was handed another one. Again, I was in a moving car, this time through a snow covered landscape, making our way like a sleigh to Logan Airport in Boston. I had been visiting my parents’ in their retirement village on the South Shore and my mind was elsewhere.

Turning to me, the driver said, “Nice place there. Every morning I pick up a Mrs. Blessington and take her to visit her sister in Plymouth.”

“Lulie!” I cried, before I could catch myself.

You need to know that I had recently written a novel, Black Angels, in the course of completing my MFA, and had named one of my main characters Lulie Blessington based on two of my parents’ friends: one named Lulie and the other by the last name of Blessington. I had never met Mrs. Blessington, but I loved the sound of the names together and thought it worked for the feisty up-from-the-South character that was my Lulie. You need to know I had been living in that novel for years, and in that instant, she was practically before me. Well, not exactly before me, but let’s just say the seat was warm with her presence.

There was a young child went forth every day;

And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;

And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many

years, or stretching cycles of years.


These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will

always go forth every day.

Walt Whitman


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