All posts by Laurie Graves

I write about nature, food, the environment, home, family, community, and people.

Brew Well. Do Good. Have Fun.

Last night, we went to Winthrop’s very own brewery, aptly called Van der Brew. It was trivia night, sponsored by Bailey Public Library and hosted by Nick Perry, Adult Services Librarian.

The modest exterior of Van der Brew, previously a Paris Farmers Union (a farm, home and garden center) belies the good vibe of this brewery.  

But the sign’s logo says it all: Brew Well. Do Good. Have Fun.

The spirit of this logo infuses the brewery. This is from Van der Brew’s website: “Making great beer isn’t just about the brews. It’s about building community, bringing people together and supporting local businesses and organizations that make our towns great places to live, work and play.”

Yes, yes, and yes, and Van der Brew is certainly making our community a better place.

Confession time: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I am not a beer enthusiast. Instead, I am more of a cocktail girl, and Van der Brew doesn’t serve cocktails or wine—only beer and soft drinks. But Clif is a beer drinker, and the atmosphere, which encourages all ages, is so much fun that a soft drink is just fine with me.

Yesterday we arrived early to get a good table and chairs for our trivia team, the Great Library, named after my very own series of YA fiction.  Here are pictures of the interior before the crowds arrived.

And here is a picture of our fearless trivia leader, Nick, who has been leading trivia nights at various places for ten years. Go, Nick!

By the time trivia night started, the place was packed, and there were around eighteen teams. Liz, one of our team members, told me that a couple months ago, on Van der Brew’s first trivia night, there were about six teams. Clearly, the word has spread about Nick’s trivia nights at the brewery.

Along with being a fun night, donations were also taken for the library for a much-needed proposed parking lot nearby. By the end of the night, the box on the stand was filled with donations.

Also, at various times the line for beer and soft drinks was long, which meant Van der Brew also had a good night.

So how did Team Great Library do? Well, I am sorry to report that we weren’t at the top. We bombed on questions regarding sports and geography, but we did pretty well with books and movies. Big surprise! We talked ourselves out of the right answers a couple of times, which was irritating. As a result, we came in ninth, smack dab in the middle.

But we had a lot of fun, and Clif and I will return on February 14 for the next trivia night.

Many thanks, Nick, and many thanks Van der Brew for this fun event that brings our community together.


Living in Place

For a New Year’s resolution, Clif and I have made a plan to use our car less and thus reduce our carbon emmissions. Our intention is to cut 1,000 miles from our yearly total, which was 7,800 last year.

Because we live in a rural community with no public transportation, a car is a necessity for us.  We must drive to the grocery store, and we must travel to sell books. Nevertheless there are plenty of ways to cut back, and one way is to become more involved with our town—Winthrop—which has a fantastic library and a new brewery, both of which sponsor many events each month. (This Friday night at the brewery is trivia night. Yes, we will be there.)

Another way is to go for walks and appreciate the natural beauty of the town itself, including our very own wooded road.

Whatever the season, there is something to notice. Sometimes the trees even look back.

As we walk, the crows are always watching. I was lucky to snap a picture of these two before they flew away.

Then there are the brown leaves on the winter trees,

and the little stream that winds through the woods not far from where we live.

I call this kind of close attention “living in place,” and it seems to me that focusing on what is nearby is a kind of meditation, which, in turn, can lead to an abiding of love of where one lives—town, city, country, or suburb.

In this time of climate crisis, a love of place is of utmost importance. Because in the end, we pay attention to what we love. We nurture it. We take care of it. We don’t destroy it.

Viewed in this light, living in place might be the most important thing a person can do.

Cory Doctorow’s Hopeful Vision: Let’s Imagine Better Things

In my last post I promised I would write pieces about what is making me hopeful in a time that does not always seem hopeful. This does not mean turning away from the realities of the climate crisis or how too many people seem to be drawn to authoritarian leaders or how hard it is to reduce one’s carbon emissions. No. I will continue to gaze at the world in all its ugliness and imperfections, including my own. But I will make every effort not to be paralyzed by the difficulties of being part of a hopeful future.

The perfect place to start my hopeful postings is with the activist and science fiction author Cory Doctorow, who is perhaps best known for his novel  Little Brother. Recently for Canada’s Globe and Mail, Doctorow wrote an opinion piece entitled Science Fiction and the Unforeseeable Future: In the 2020s, let’s imagine better things.

On his website Doctorow posits that “science fiction can’t predict the future, but might inspire it” and “how the dystopian malaise of science fiction can be turned into an inspiring tale of ‘adversity met and overcome – hard work and commitment wrenching a limping victory from the jaws of defeat.'”

Here an excerpt from Science Fiction and the Unforeseeable Future: In the 2020s, let’s imagine better things:

Considered in the grand sweep of human achievements, resolving the climate crisis is a big job, but it’s not the biggest thing we’ve ever done. We have built great cities, international aviation systems, an internet that wires together the planet like a vast digital nervous system. We can do this.”

Then Doctorow goes on to imagine a Canadian Dream, which could be a dream for all of us:

Full employment is guaranteed to anyone who will work on the energy transition – building wind, tide and solar facilities; power storage systems; electrified transit systems; high-speed rail; and retrofits to existing housing stock for an order-of-magnitude increase in energy and thermal efficiency. All of these are entirely precedented – retrofitting the housing stock is not so different from the job we undertook to purge our homes of lead paint and asbestos, and the cause every bit as urgent.

Canada goes on a war footing: Full employment is guaranteed to anyone who will work on the energy transition – building wind, tide and solar facilities; power storage systems; electrified transit systems; high-speed rail; and retrofits to existing housing stock for an order-of-magnitude increase in energy and thermal efficiency. All of these are entirely precedented – retrofitting the housing stock is not so different from the job we undertook to purge our homes of lead paint and asbestos, and the cause every bit as urgent.

How will we pay for it? The same way we paid for the Second World War: spending the money into existence (much easier now that we can do so with a keyboard rather than a printing press), then running a massive campaign to sequester all that money in war bonds so it doesn’t cause inflation.

The justification for taking such extreme measures is obvious: a 1000 Year Reich is a horror too ghastly to countenance, but rendering our planet incapable of sustaining human life is even worse.

Doctorow makes a compelling argument for hope, and I would encourage readers to read the whole Globe and Mail piece, which can be accessed through the above link I have provided to Doctorow’s website.

Welcome, 2020!

As my mother-in-law, Ethel, would have put it, the holidays went by in a mad dash. We had lots of fun, but I will admit to being more than a little tired. Never mind! Plenty of time to rest in January, which, believe it or not, is one of my favorite months. I love the snow and the quiet and the clarity of the light.

I was too busy to take pictures during Christmas, but on the last day of the year, it snowed and things slowed down. (Shannon, sorry you missed this. I know how much you like cozy days.)

We started the day with waffles and veggie sausages. I realize this is bragging, but Clif makes the best waffles. Ever.

Here is the master by his machine.

Then there was the snow, to make everything feel snug and warm inside. We had just the right amount—about five or six inches—and clean up was easy.

Here are some more snowy pictures.

Ending with some snowy frogs.

For some reason, I am starting 2020 with a hopeful feeling. I know. I know. Australia is burning—oh so terrible!—and the politics of hate, racism, and lies continue to rage in this country as well as around the world. Nevertheless, I feel hope stirring inside me.

Maybe it’s because today I have read several pieces where other writers have felt the same way. Or because a very good friend did something so cool I would have jumped for joy if my creaky knees had allowed.

Or maybe it’s because on New Year’s Eve, we timed Avengers: End Game so perfectly that at the stroke of midnight, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, snapped his fingers. At which point, the evil Thanos and all his minions blew away. (I’m not going to put too fine a point on the symbolism of this.)  But it was indeed a thrill to have those snapping fingers precisely at midnight at the dawn of a new decade with a number that implies clarity.

Who knows why I’m feeling this spark of hope? But I am. And for a while, anyway, I will be sharing hopeful things on my blog.

Happy 2020 to you all, dear blogging friends. I look forward to reading all your wonderful posts in the upcoming year.

The Countdown Begins!

While it might be only five days until Christmas, it is just two days until the kids—all right, they’re really adults, but they will always be kids to me—come home. Tomorrow, Mike and Shannon will be leaving North Carolina on Saturday and spend the night with Dee in Brooklyn. Then to Maine, to Maine, they all come, and the whole crazy crew will be together until Sunday, December 29, when Shannon and Mike head back to North Carolina. Dee will stay with us until the New Year.

Clif and I are more than a little excited to have everyone home. The shelves, freezer, and refrigerator are bursting with good things to eat. There will be movies, of course, and board games and pizza with friends. And lots and lots of talking. I know the time will fly by ever so fast, but what a delicious feeling it is to be at the beginning of the festivities rather than at the end.

I will be taking a break from blogging until the New Year. With so much family and fun, I’m not sure how many blogs I’ll be able to read, but I’ll be back in the saddle come the beginning of January.

Two things to share before I sign off.

The first is from Suzzane’s Mom’s Blog, a wonderful source of offbeat news, most of it positive. Recently, there was a post about how in 1955 NORAD began tracking Santa’s progress. After all the upsetting news about politics and the climate crisis, this is sure to put a smile on your face. Go, Santa, go!

The second are some snowy pictures I took around our yard. I know that in different parts of the world, Christmas looks different, and that’s as it should be. The world is big, and there is lot of variety. But to northern New England, Christmas means snow, and here are some pictures I took around our yard after the last storm a couple of days ago.

Happy holidays to you all. See you in 2020.

A Short Story Advent Calendar

This year for an early Christmas present, my daughter Shannon and my son-in-law Mike gave me Hingston & Olsen Publishing’s 2019 Short Story Advent Calendar.

This present is as delightful as it sounds and looks. In the box, there are twenty-four short stories labeled from 1 to 24. Each story is sealed, waiting to be broken on the appropriate day by the eager reader. As is described on the Advent Calendar website, “this is a collection of literary, non-religious stories for adults.”

So far my favorites have been “Save-A-Lot” by Anthony Doer; “An Errand in the Country” by Olga Grushin; and “Natural Light” by Kathleen Alcott. In fact, I liked Gushin’s story so well that I have requested her novel The Dream Life of Sukhanov through interlibrary loan, and it might very well be the first book I read in 2020.

Naturally, not all the short stories in the collection have resonated with me, and that is to be expected. But what a treat it is to settle into bed with the story of the day, and this sort of advent calendar is a perfect gift for those who love literary fiction.

Many thanks, Mike and Shannon!