A slow leap

View south from Atlantic Avenue to North Hampton Beach and beyond, around 1 p.m. this afternoon, before snow.

Husband and I were having togetherness time, working out at the gym, having lunch at The Ocean Wok in Hampton Beach, driving around and avoiding doing our taxes when I took this picture. Procrastination doesn’t have to be lonely.

Anyway, Feb. 29 is a sort of extra day.

Now it is snowing a lot, maybe 8 to 12 inches before it’s done, basically for the first time this winter, and John is cooking chicken cacciatore while I log some time on the couch, online.



Buddha Squirrel becomes One with our birdseed.

Bright, cold, blustery Sunday. Chipmunks are awake and staggering around in the backyard. Cardinals, titmice, chickadees and woodpeckers take turns at the feeder with Squirrelzilla.

Daughters are at home, this weekend, this semester. One has leveled up to adulthood (the weekend visitor). The other I wish I could outsource the parenting of, just now, since I am proving to be awful at it.

Husband is in the pondhouse burning wood in the woodstove and inhabiting in his special Away place. He is turning wood; he is making rustic candle holders from elm, a very hard wood. He is on reserve and may be called to work anytime.

He made curried chicken in the slow cooker last night. Curry spices always makes me feel good. I had success with a Shepherd’s Pie recipe the night before (used beef not lamb). Cooking large quantities of warm food and buying seeds from catalogs are late February action items. Otherwise, we just wait for growth.

A bouquet of recent arrivals.

Awake late last night, I finished a fantasy book about kings and magic I remember liking a lot as a teenager. But, spoiled by maturity, I found the plot and writing kind of painfully bad this time around. Maybe for personal as much as aesthetic reasons.

All in silk and embroidery, he stood before them like a young angel, the creamy whiteness of his raiment broken only by the subtle play of gold and rubies encrusting the edges.

Book club is reading The Wife for late March. I just bought it for my Kindle.

With her skillful storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Wolitzer has crafted a wise and candid look at the choices all men and women make — in marriage, work, and life.

I imagine we’ll all have something to contribute to the conversation.

Phone just rang. Husband will fly to Heathrow in the morning. Now, this afternoon, we will have a walk with the dog in the woods and decide what to cook next.

Birds and beasts

Mourning dove

Third day of paying a little more attention to the birds. (Still need to replenish the suet feeder.) My Great Backyard Bird Count photo album on Facebook.

Morning coffee was Audubon Shade Song French Roast. It’s shade-grown in Central America under a natural tree canopy that feeds and shelters migrating songbirds. Bought it yesterday at the fancy grocery store when I couldn’t find the usual cheap stuff in a can. It actually tastes really good, and it was in the same price range as all the other upscale beans.

Dog and I are just back from a walk in the White’s Lane woods, where we discovered new trails never trod upon by our sneakers and paws. Past the frozen muddy pool with the shot-full-of-holes rusted out van, we bore right this time and made a gentle ascent into open woods full of gigantic boulders, many of them roughly cube-shaped.

Trails we followed between boulders, rocks and along old stone walls were narrow, soft, winding, cold and dry under foot, padded with leaf litter, pine needles and moss. A pretty place. But without many birds. Where are the damn birds? I’m trying to count them!

One dove.

It’s 37 degrees, sunny and breezy, with no snow cover.

Yesterday’s beach cleanup, in similar weather, was a success. Nearly 30 volunteers of all ages, some newcomers and others experienced, picked up 30 lbs of the usual sorts of land trash and marine debris from North Hampton State Beach.

There was one leathery, rotted baby seal carcass, probably from the big viral die-off this year. It had been spray-painted with the letters “NEAQ,” meaning the New England Aquarium Marine Mammal Stranding Network had checked it out and recorded the seal’s presence and location.

We are also still finding those plastic disks that washed out of a sewage treatment plant up the Merrimack River last year. The spillover occurred at night, after lots of rain, and before an alarm had been installed on the new-ish system, doh.


Two American crows on a roof in Rye, NH, across from the ocean.

I am counting birds for this weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count. I watched our backyard bird feeder for half an hour yesterday morning, then I drove along the coast in light rain. Chickadees, titmice, cardinals in the home territory, plus a pair of mallards way out back in the pond, then gulls and goldeneyes. And crows, of course, silhouetted against the sky, or poking around in front yards and stubbly fields.

There actually weren’t that many birds around.

After our monthly beach cleanup this morning, I will try again.

Cats in the afternoon

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
– Ernest Hemingway

Key West, a nice place to bleed.

This study/ writing room/ clinic of a self-phlebotomizer, is behind wrought iron bars on the second floor of a small building in the backyard of the Hemingway House. A procession of tourists bearing brochures and smartphones pass a grove of bamboo squeaking in subtropical breezes and climb single-file the narrow stairs to stare in at the den where the master of succinct self-dramatization bled his sanguinity onto the page.

Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well

Damn that’s big.

In the main house, where Hemingway’s second of four wives Pauline removed the ceiling fans and installed chandeliers made of Venetian glass, there are many photos of Hemingway, and of his family members, and of other creatures that are bleeding, or have bled, for Ernest. Creatures with hooves and antlers, creatures with wings and feathers, a maned lion, some very big fish.

There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter. – Ernest Hemingway, “On the Blue Water: A Gulfstream Letter,” Esquire magazine, April 1936.

While Hemingway was in Spain in 1937 and ’38 writing as a journalist about the Spanish Civil War, Pauline ordered construction of an in-ground pool. It cost more than twice as much as they had paid for the sturdy limestone house.

Hemingway left Pauline and went to Cuba to fish in the Gulf Stream. He married another writer. It was the shortest of his marriages because writers should never marry each other, according to Larry the tour guide at the Hemingway House.

A Hemingway feline deigns to be petted.

Many people are there only to see the cats. There are 44 of them, a number that is kept relatively constant by the keepers of the house, who are also the keepers of cat reproduction. These 44 little six-toed hunters are privileged to go where they like and do what they want for their entire lives at the corner of Whitehead and Olivia Streets.

After a visit to the house, one may overhear a daughter saying to her mother: “So Mom, you finally got to see Your Man.”

“It isn’t Hemingway and his big public self. It’s the change in writing that he influenced and was part of. Spare. Not tarted up. With lots to read between the lines, but only if you want to.”

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. – Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon 

Written in blood, but cold like ice. You like that kind of writing or you don’t.

(No animals were harmed and no arteries were opened in the writing of this post. But there is a small, gray, five-toed cat pretending to be asleep close by.)

A love poem

Langdon Smith, 1895

When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.

Mindless we lived and mindless we loved
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we caught our breath from the womb of death
And crept into light again.

We were amphibians, scaled and tailed,
And drab as a dead man’s hand;
We coiled at ease ‘neath the dripping trees
Or trailed through the mud and sand.
Croaking and blind, with our three-clawed feet
Writing a language dumb,
With never a spark in the empty dark
To hint at a life to come.

Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,
And happy we died once more;
Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold
Of a Neocomian shore.
The eons came and the eons fled
And the sleep that wrapped us fast
Was riven away in a newer day
And the night of death was past.

Then light and swift through the jungle trees
We swung in our airy flights,
Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms
In the hush of the moonless nights;
And, oh! what beautiful years were there
When our hearts clung each to each;
When life was filled and our senses thrilled
In the first faint dawn of speech.

Thus life by life and love by love
We passed through the cycles strange,
And breath by breath and death by death
We followed the chain of change.
Till there came a time in the law of life
When over the nursing sod
The shadows broke and soul awoke
In a strange, dim dream of God.

I was thewed like an Auroch bull
And tusked like the great Cave Bear;
And you, my sweet, from head to feet
Were gowned in your glorious hair.
Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave,
When the night fell o’er the plain
And the moon hung red o’er the river bed
We mumbled the bones of the slain.

I flaked a flint to a cutting edge
And shaped it with brutish craft;
I broke a shank from the woodland dank
And fitted it, head and haft;
Then I hid me close to the reedy tarn,
Where the Mammoth came to drink;
Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone
And slew him upon the brink.

Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes,
Loud answered our kith and kin;
From west and east to the crimson feast
The clan came tramping in.
O’er joint and gristle and padded hoof
We fought and clawed and tore,
And cheek by jowl with many a growl
We talked the marvel o’er.

I carved that fight on a reindeer bone
With rude and hairy hand;
I pictured his fall on the cavern wall
That men might understand.
For we lived by blood and the right of might
Ere human laws were drawn,
And the age of sin did not begin
Till our brutal tusks were gone.

And that was a million years ago
In a time that no man knows;
Yet here tonight in the mellow light
We sit at Delmonico’s.
Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,
Your hair is dark as jet,
Your years are few, your life is new,
Your soul untried, and yet –

Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay
And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;
We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones
And deep in the Coralline crags;
Our love is old, our lives are old,
And death shall come amain;
Should it come today, what man may say
We shall not live again?

God wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds
And furnished them wings to fly;
We sowed our spawn in the world’s dim dawn,
And I know that it shall not die;
Though cities have sprung above the graves
Where the crook-boned men made war
And the ox-wain creaks o’er the buried caves
Where the mummied mammoths are.

Then as we linger at luncheon here
O’er many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
Were a tadpole and I was a fish.

Back to Fla.

You never forget how to ride a bike.

When we lived in Boca Raton, Florida, Anna was in first, second and third grades and she biked the 1.8 miles to school most mornings (with me or her father biking behind her) and then we met her to bike home in the afternoons. Now she’s a lovely, delightful, accomplished, independent (except for putting sunscreen on her back), amusing, gainfully-employed 22-year-old living and working in Somerville, MA near Boston. She doesn’t have a bike there.

We swam in warm water today. We also haven’t done much of that for many years. Silvery fish swam around us. My daughters swam together longest, while their father and I were old folx upon the shore. And their hair was long and red and wet and they laughed and told each other secrets and stories they wouldn’t tell us and we wouldn’t want to know anyway.

I do not want on Sunday to go back to the future, to the gray and brown and patchy white of New Hampshire, to an often-empty house, in the cold of a long winter, oh no I do not.

I took this picture of an ibis in the backyard of our two-more-days rental: Ibis! It is so white and still and has such an oddly blue eye.