“The whole modernist-realist tradition is about the self observing the world around you—sensing how other it is, how alien it is, how different it is to what’s going on inside you. In fantasy, that gets turned inside out. The landscape you inhabit is a mirror of what’s inside you. The stuff inside can get out, and walk around, and take the form of places and people and things and magic. And once it’s outside, then you can get at it. You can wrestle it, make friends with it, kill it, seduce it. Fantasy takes all those things from deep inside and puts them where you can see them, and then deal with them.” – Confronting Reality By Reading Fantasy (Lev Grossman on the importance of C.S. Lewis), The Atlantic


“…it’s the way he uses language—which is nothing like the way fantasists used language before him. There’s no sense of nostalgia. There’s no medieval floridness. There’s no fairy tale condescension to the child reader. It’s very straight, and very clean—there’s no Vaseline on the lens. You see everything clearly, not with sparkles or a flowery sense of wonderment, but with very specific physical details. Look at the attention to detail as you watch Lucy going through the wardrobe:

This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more mothballs?” she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. “This is very queer,” she said, and went on a step or two further.

Next moment she found that what was rubbing against her face and hands was no longer soft fur but something hard and rough and even prickly. “Why, it is just like branches of trees!” exclaimed Lucy. And then she saw that there was a light ahead of her; not a few inches away where the back of the wardrobe ought to have been, but a long way off. Something cold and soft was falling on her. A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling through the air.

She feels the softness of the coats, she hears the crunching under her feet, she bends down and feels the snow, she feels the prickliness of the trees, and just like that she’s through the wardrobe and into Narnia. There are no special effects in the passage. He’s making magic, but he’s making magic out of very ordinary physical impressions. It’s very powerful, and it’s very new. I don’t think anybody wrote this way before he did. He came up with a new way to describe magic that made it feel realer than it ever had.

It works because he’s writing fantasy—but he’s working with the tools of realism. Even though he had this wonderful romantic yearning nostalgia, he writes like a modernist. He writes like Hemingway, like the Joyce of Dubliners. Though he was writing shortly after the time of the modernists, he observes reality in the meticulous, almost disenchanted way they did—but he puts those tools in the service of a totally different effect.

As far as the modern fantasy novels goes, this is ground zero. You’re seeing the atom being split for the first time. So much of what’s written afterwards comes out of that simple moment, just emerges from Lucy going through the wardrobe.”


wild blueberries

Wild blueberries, August 1

honey perfume rose

Honey Perfume rose after rain

purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife by the pond


What to do with the blueberries…

Food & Wine: Blueberry Margarita


What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
– Andrew Marvell, The Garden

Liqueur Project

homemade liqueur

Homemade liqueurs, strawberry and coffee.

Both are delicious. I am going to make more for gifts and for my own cabinet. Here are the recipes…

Homemade Coffee Liqueur, from Macheesmo.

I ordered my Madagascar vanilla beans from The Spice House. I used a dark roast bird friendly coffee I order from Birds & Beans (and drink anyway for breakfast): Scarlet Tanager French Roast.

This liqueur is amazing in Black Russians and White Russians. I liked it 50/50 with vodka (1 part vodka, 1 part coffee liqueur). For a White Russian, 2 parts vodka, 2 parts coffee liqueur, 1 part cream.

Strawberry Liqueur, by Laurie on Food.com.

I used local strawberries, from Applecrest Farm Orchards. Hoping to get both my daughters to join me there today to pick some more!

More about Strawberry Liqueur plus another recipe, from Serious Eats: How to Make Strawberry Liqueur.

You can splash a little strawberry liqueur in sparkling wine or club soda for a quick refresher, use it to sweeten up a seasonal sangria, or sub it in for other liqueurs like triple sec in classics like a Margarita. And you don’t need a lot of patience, since it doesn’t take long for strawberries to release their flavor and color—after only a day or two you’ll have a bright red infusion that smells like a Strawberry Shortcake doll who likes to party.

Maybe I can use the strawberry liqueur in the drink I invented, the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Coming soon: Homemade Rhubarb Bitters and Homemade Blueberry Liqueur.

Flashing in the sunlight

Tree swallow on a wire, balancing in the wind, yesterday on Mount Agamenticus.

I was looking for migrating hawks and I found swallows instead, dozens of them.

Handsome aerialists with deep-blue iridescent backs and clean white fronts, Tree Swallows are a familiar sight in summer fields and wetlands across northern North America. They chase after flying insects with acrobatic twists and turns, their steely blue-green feathers flashing in the sunlight.

I do love the handsome aerialists.

Swallows and martins are the family Hirundinidae.

Swallows have adapted to hunting insects on the wing by developing a slender, streamlined body and long pointed wings, which allow great maneuverability and endurance, as well as frequent periods of gliding. Their body shape allows for very efficient flight, which costs 50–75% less for swallows than equivalent passerines of the same size.

It’s surely summer, for there’s a swallow:
Come one swallow, his mate will follow,
The bird race quicken and wheel and thicken.

- Christina Rossetti, A Bird Song

Easter 2014

bluebird eggs

Morning: bluebird eggs in the backyard.

“Best Easter egg hunt ever.” – Anna, my daughter

bee and crocuses

Afternoon: bee and crocuses at Prescott Park, Portsmouth.

“Can we go now? I’m cold and I have to pee.” – Anna, my daughter (age 25)