Today is Liam’s birthday, and as the title of this post indicates, he is thirteen years old. I still remember what a little Tasmanian devil Liam was when he was a puppy, and Liam remained energetic in his senior years until he went blind.
Poor dog buddy! His blindness has really slowed him down, and the other day, he banged his beautiful long nose on something—we don’t know what—and now his nose is horribly swollen on one side. Fortunately, his appetite is still good, and his bruised nose hasn’t interfered with his eating.
During a recent storm, some large branches had fallen in our backyard next to the bird feeders. They made excellent perches for the birds, and so we left them there. Liam had his paths for doing his business, and none of the branches were in his paths. However, the rains that came on Saturday did two things—it reduced the amount of snow we had, and it made the remaining snow so hard that Liam can now leave the paths and wander at will in the backyard.
Clif and I wondered, did Liam run into one of those branches and hurt his nose? We have no way of knowing, but we decided not to take any chances. Yesterday, we cleared out all those branches—some of them were quite large—and threw them over the fence into the woods. The birds no longer have perches directly by the feeders, but as we have so many trees in our backyard, it really doesn’t matter. There are plenty of other branches for the birds, and they are still coming in great numbers to the bird feeders and suet.
Swollen nose aside, Liam is holding his own. We have adjusted the way we do things. His blindness has affected his whole system, and Liam is now on a special diet that includes vitamins. No more walks off the leash, and his walks are much shorter. We don’t like to leave him for more than five hours even though he has never messed in the house while we were gone. No overnight guests who are not family as Liam sometimes barks in the middle of the night to go outside.
However, as we recently told our friends Beth and John, we love our dog buddy so much that we never resent the extra care involved as Liam has aged and gone blind. For the most part, unless he bumps into something, Liam is comfortable, and his appetite is good.
In honor of Liam’s birthday, here is a picture, complete with a Tolkien quotation, of Liam when he could still see. The photo, used as a card, was taken on the trails behind the town’s high school, one of Liam’s favorite places before he went blind.
So happy birthday to one of the best and sweetest dogs in Winthrop.
Yesterday, I took my friend Esther out to lunch to celebrate her eightieth birthday, which, in fact, was the end of November. However, between the holidays and bad weather, there really wasn’t a good time for me to take her out before Christmas, and we settled on January.
“After all,” Esther said. “I’ll still be eighty.”
Indeed she would. For recent readers who might not be familiar with Esther, here is a brief history of how we became friends. I met Esther through my mother. They both lived in Vassalboro, a small town in central Maine, about eight miles from Waterville and twenty-five miles away from where I live. As Esther put it, “Your mother was the best friend I ever had, and that kind of friendship doesn’t come along very often.” No, it doesn’t.
I often got together with my mother and Esther for lunch, tea, and other events, and over the years, she became my friend, too. When my mother died ten years ago, I continued my friendship with Esther. Not only do I enjoy Esther’s lively company, but she also provides a connection to my mother, and this means a lot to me.
As if all this weren’t enough, Esther is also a treasure trove of stories about rural life in Maine in the 1940s and 1950s, a time that seems nearly as remote and as different as the pioneer days. Esther was born in Vassalboro, and her family was very poor. But because they lived in the country, they were able to grow a lot of their own food.
“We hardly went to the grocery store,” Esther said. “Going to Waterville was a big occasion. For meat, we mostly ate deer, and when my father got one, we all gathered around the piano, sang songs, and celebrated. But I hated having to help cut up the deer. The flesh still smelled so alive, and it reminded me that the animal had been living not long ago.”
I nodded sympathetically, marveling at her country grit. I tried to picture myself butchering a deer when I was a young girl, and here my imagination failed me. I know I couldn’t have done it.
Esther said, “My father might have killed deer, but when he was haying, he always went in a big circle around nesting birds. He didn’t hunt for fun. He hunted for food.”
Again, I nodded. Hunting for food I understand but killing for fun, I do not.
“We ate some of the meat fresh,” Esther continued. “But my mother canned a lot of it for the winter.”
As Esther spoke, I thought about my own mother, of how she, too, grew up in poverty. My mother lived with her single mother and her grandmother. But they didn’t live in the country where they could grow much of their own food. Instead, they lived in a tiny apartment in Skowhegan, a small mill town up the Kennebec River from Waterville. But it seems my great-grandmother was a resourceful cook, and my mother often marveled at how even when there cupboards were bare, my great-grandmother always managed to put something together for supper.
“The good old days, ” I said to Esther.
Esther is one of those people who really does have a twinkle in her eye, and she responded, “When I wasn’t good and I wasn’t old.”
We both laughed.
Here’s a picture I took of Esther yesterday at Joseph’s Fireside Steakhouse in Waterville.
Happy birthday, Esther! May you have many more.
The holidays are over, the kids are gone, and we are feeling a little despondent. We so love this time of food, family, generosity—oh, the world needs more of this homely virtue—twinkling lights, and, yes, beauty. Winter is one of the most beautiful times in Maine, and on a clear day, the skies are so blue that I feel exhilarated.
It snowed on Christmas day, a storm that left us about eight inches of light, fluffy snow. Nothing unusual for central Maine. Naturally, this meant we had to clean up the snow, but as the saying goes, many hands make the task light.
Here is Shannon, just barely visible in her blue parka, cleaning our car.
Here is our front deck, after it was shoveled.
Then, as it sometimes happens in Maine in the winter, it got very, very cold.
This little junco is puffed up against the cold. We are diligent about keeping the feeders filled for them and for the other birds.
It is so cold, that the windows in the bedroom are frosted.
But our backyard looks like a winter wonderland, so all is forgiven.
Maine is not the northern-most state in our country, but in the winter, we definitely feel as though we are north of north. Snow, cold, quiet, and a hunkering down for the winter give us the illusion of being separate from the rest of the country. How far removed Washington feels, almost as though it is on another planet.
This, of course, is false thinking. What happens in Washington ripples outward and upward, affecting us all. But during this time of stillness and cold, I can almost pretend that time has slowed down, allowing us to focus on movies, books, and tea with friends.
And speaking of movies…we saw four good ones over the holidays, all worth putting on your list if you are a movie buff. Our favorite was Darkest Hour, about Winston Churchill and England’s decision to enter World War II. A couple of times I was moved to tears, especially as the little civilian fleet left to rescue the soldiers at Dunkirk. Oh, my! Then, there is Churchill’s famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech.
My second favorite was Downsizing, a parable about climate change, our overconsuming ways, and bright spots of decency. No answers are provided, and the silly sight of a shrinking Matt Damon does not detract from the serious message of this movie.
Third was All the Money in the World, about the kidnapping of Paul Getty III. Christopher Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey in playing Getty the elder, and Plummer did an outstanding job, especially when you consider his scenes were filmed in just nine days. As for all that money? Too much for one person. Too much.
Finally, we saw the latest Star Wars movie, which was good enough, but it just didn’t have sparkle. The plot was too basic and involved too much chasing. Still, it was wonderful to see Carrie Fisher in her last role—how good she was!—as well as some bright spots that were, alas, not allowed to shine long enough.
It’s been a good year for movies, and there are more to look forward to, perfect for this cold time of year.
So now onward, ho to January and February.
Here we are, heading to the shortest day and, of course, the longest night of the year. We celebrate Christmas so the season is busy for us, and we don’t mind the dark at all. Cards, presents, lights, good food, gatherings with friends and families—I really do enjoy them all.
Yesterday, Clif and I wrapped presents, and they are organized and tucked away for the big day. I must admit this is one Christmas chore I’m not particularly fond of, and I am always happy when it is done. Yay!
Now, on to cleaning and cooking to get ready for the arrival of the kids—Mike, Shannon, and Dee. Double yay! Can’t wait to see them. I plan on baking shortbread cookies with chocolate frosting; thumb–print cookies; chocolate chip cookies; and maybe some toffee. We shall see about the last.
With so much to do and enjoy, I’ll be taking off the next two weeks from the blog, and I’ll be back sometime the week of January 1.
But here’s a little something silly, from our house to yours, to put you in the holiday spirit, whatever you celebrate. Or even if you don’t celebrate. Because we all need a bit of silly fun from time to time.
See you in 2018!
More snow today, and the landscape definitely looks wintry. Here is the view from our front deck.
Unfortunately, the forecast is for freezing rain later in the day, and if there is one thing we Mainers hate, it’s freezing rain. Because Clif and I work from home, we no longer have to worry about driving on slick roads, but we are certainly sympathetic with those who must brave slippery highways to get to their jobs. Fingers crossed that the forecast is wrong, and it snows rather than rains.
Christmas, lovely Christmas, is just around the corner. Soon “the kids”—Dee, Mike, and Shannon—will be coming home, and I am so anxious to see them that I wish they were arriving this weekend rather than next weekend. On the other hand, there is still much to do, and I need that extra week. Nevertheless…
As the title of this post indicates, I received a wonderful early Christmas present from my blogging friend Sheryl of Flowery Prose, who writes about nature, flower, and books from her home in Alberta, Canada. Recently, she wrote a terrific review of my fantasy novel, Maya and the Book of Everything. Here is what she wrote:
“A mysterious library, magical books, and unexpected journeys to new lands and times? A resourceful, intelligent, and thoughtful teenaged protagonist that we can relate to and love and root for? A clever, fresh (and extremely relevant) take on the classic battle between good and evil? Creative plotting, beautifully realized characterization, precisely detailed world building, and perfect pacing? I’m all in. Laurie’s book really is everything!
“As it is the season of gift giving, if you’re having a difficult time buying for the young teenagers in your life, well, have I got a suggestion for you. And while you’re at it, click an extra copy into your cart for yourself. Because we could all use a Book of Everything in our lives. 🙂
“(I’m sure glad she’s already working on the sequel because I’m not certain how long I can wait, given that juicy wallop set up at the end…).”
Many thanks, many thanks, Sheryl!
Officially, winter begins on December 21, but in Maine, winter begins with the first real snowfall. That is, the accumulation must be over four inches, and the snow must not melt during the next sunny day.
I think this storm, although just starting in central Maine, will fulfill both requirements. There is something exhilarating about the first real snow of winter, that cold tang, the softness of the snow.
Yes, winter will grow old, but right now, on this Saturday afternoon, as we prepare to decorate our tree, both Clif and I are in perfect agreement: Let it snow.