Category Archives: Living in Place

The Solace of the Seasons

Yesterday, the calendar flipped from September to October, and I could not have imagined a more perfect fall day. The night before, the temperature dipped to a little below 50°F, and during the day it rose to 65°F with nary a hint of humidity.

A perfect day for a bike ride by Maranacook Lake. The cloudless azure sky was a sight to behold, and the water—I know.  I see it everywhere—was Maya blue. Best of all, there were no snakes on the road, very common in Maine in the fall. I suppose the warmth attracts them.

Oh, for three or four more months of these perfect days. For the farmers and the nursery garden owners, rain at night, between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. until there is enough water to satisfy those who grow things. Then warm, sunny days for those of us who like to bike, walk, and sit on the patio. I realize that’s asking for a lot, but if I were in charge, that’s how the weather would be.

Right now, the leaves have just a hit of color, and there is still a lot of green.

Apples have begun to ripen, and I bought a small bag of Cortlands, crisp and tart, at the grocery store. My plan is to go to Lakeside Orchard and by a big bag of the beauties. That way, when I invite friends over for coffee and tea, I can serve warm, fragrant baked apples with just a touch of vanilla ice cream on top.

I’m always sorry to see the end of summer—the profusion of flowers, the nights on the patio, the warm weather for bike riding. But the apples, the blue of the sky, and the asters remind me that fall brings its own pleasures.

At night, the crickets are still singing and should continue until the cold silences them.  However the hummingbirds—those feisty yet ethereal creatures—are gone, and yesterday I took in their feeders and gave them a good scrubbing. Out the feeders will come next spring, when the cycle begins again. a cycle that is old but is never stale, always a delight, always renewing.

With all that is going on in our country, in the world, this cycle brings me great comfort.

This photo is for you, Quercus



High Summer in Maine

The end of July and the beginning of August is a very sweet time in Maine, and this year, with its warm days and cool nights, has been even sweeter than usual. It feels like an old-fashioned Maine summer, a welcome relief from the past few years where it has been blisteringly hot during July and August.

Clif and I have been soaking up this fine weather. On Friday, our friends Alice and Joel came over for drinks and appetizers on the patio. There were bike rides on Saturday and Sunday. We still don’t go far, but we figure it is better to go eight miles a ride rather than no miles a ride, and we feel as though we are gaining strength.

On Sunday, our friends Dawna and Jim invited us and another couple over for dinner. Dawna and Jim have a lovely home by the Upper Narrows Pond, which truly is large enough to pass as a lake. The Upper Narrows is no farm pond.

The food was terrific.

As was the view.

The company and conversation were, of course, superb.

I wish I could bottle these days and release them during the drear days of late February and March, when everything seems to be gray drizzle and hard, dirty snow.

Away with those thoughts! August, buzzing August, is just around the corner, and Clif and I intend to squeeze every bit of delight that we can out of this lovely month.

Why, on a recent ride down a back road, I even came up with a haiku in honor of this best time of year.

Queen Anne’s lace in bloom
White ducks waddling on green grass
High summer in Maine

Welcome, welcome, high summer!

Of Sunny Skies and Bluegrass

Yesterday was a lovely, hot summer day with a blue sky, puffy clouds, a slight breeze, and not a hint of humidity. To paraphrase a Facebook friend,  yesterday’s weather more than made up for the misery of March, and it’s why people come to Maine in July. So far, summer in Maine has been splendid, and may it continue.

The first order of the day was to go on an eight-mile bike ride. Slowly, slowly, Clif and I are building up our strength. But after two years of being sedentary, we can’t expect to be super bikers after only two months of steady riding. Still, I am impatient to be the strong biker I once was, and by the end of the summer, I hope to be going on much longer rides.

Our town sponsors summer concerts at Norcross Point, a little park by the lake in town. This week’s featured group was The Sandy River Ramblers, and they play bluegrass and country music.  We therefore decided to bring a picnic lunch to have after our bike ride and then go to the concert, which started midafternoon.

We ate at the Winthrop’s Public Beach, just down from Norcross Point. When our children were young, we spent many happy summer days here, and it was fun to watch children and their families swim and play in Marancook Lake.

After our lunch, we headed to Norcross Point. The Sandy River Ramblers comprise two men and two women. The men had decent enough voices, but my how those women could sing. “She’s a good-hearted woman with a good timing man. She loves him in spite of his wicked ways, which she doesn’t understand.” The downfall of many a woman.

Unfortunately, The Sandy River Ramblers don’t have a website, and their Facebook page isn’t up to date. Also, there was no program. The long and the the short of it is that I am not able to identify any of the singers.

Ah, well, the concert was free, and it was a fine thing to listen to this band on such a nice day. We sat in the shade of a flowering tree.

Two boys played soccer at the edge of the park. In matching smocks with smiley faces, little twin girls ran by, tumbling over each other like puppies. On a nearby swing set came a steady creak, creak, creak and the laughter of children. By the lake, a boy rested on a large branch of a birch tree. And on the lake, there was a cluster of boats full of people who had come to listen to the music as it carried over the water.

A day in Maine in the summer.

What a Day for a Bike Ride

Despite what the calendar might say, summer is here. The leaves are deep green and mature, and the heat has come. While I enjoy summer, I am always sorry to see sweet spring depart in such a rush. Stay, stay a little longer, I always wish, but of course she never does.

On Saturday, summer’s arrival was more than evident. The day was sunny and warm—perfect for a bike ride. We decided to extend our ride from eight to twelve miles, with a mile of it being steady uphill all the way.

Clif packed our bikes on the car,

and  we headed to the parking lot by the public beach.

We pedaled from Winthrop to Readfield, the town next to us,

where we moved from lake views to prospects of fields and a mountain.  How lucky we are to live in such a lovely, rural place with  many fine places to ride a bike.

On the way back, it was downhill for a good part of the way. My bike tires hummed on the road, the wind blew across my face, and I could smell the warm grass of the fields and the cool balsam of the woods. Finally, we were back to the water.

At the beginning of May, I decided the time had come to get back in shape. For various reasons—chiefly, working on my novel Maya and the Book of Everything—I had let exercise slip by the wayside. At my age, it is never a good thing to do this, and I felt flabby and weak. So I went on the exercise bike, the road to nowhere, six days a week.

And now, in the middle of June, I see the payoff. I am not as strong as I want to be, but my oh my the progress I’ve made since the beginning of May. Very heartening.

Onward and Onward!

For Derrick and Jackie: A Drink on the Patio

On April 1, while snow fell on central Maine, I was in England, at least in spirit, visiting Derrick and Jackie’s glorious gardens.  (Oh, the wonders of the blog world and the Internet. )

I practically inhaled picture after beautiful picture of daffodils and tulips. It might have been cold and snowy outside my home, but I could feel warmth and sunlight pouring out of my computer as I toured Derrick and Jackie’s garden.

Then, at the end of Derrick’s post, I came to this: “For the first time this year we took drinks in the rose garden before dinner. I hope it is not too long before Laurie and Clif can do the same on their patio.”

Well, I thought. Well, well, well. Our patio is still buried under snow, but where there is a will, there is a way.

Derrick and Jackie, this post is dedicated to you as Clif, on our patio, raises his glass to daffodils and tulips and spring and the glory of an English garden.

The Golden Slant of Autumn’s Light

Autumn is here. As I work in my office, I can hear the rat-a-tat-tat of acorns as they fall on the roof. Sometimes it is so loud and steady that it sounds as though a mischievous tree-imp is throwing small rocks on the house.


For the most part, the humidity is gone, and on nice days, the air is cool and dry. The nights have become so chilly that it won’t be long until we put down all the storm windows. Indeed, we have begun pulling the shades at night.

Autumn brings with it many chores to be done by winter. The chimney needs to be cleaned, and there is still wood to be stacked. Clif takes care of both of these things. At sixty-five—Clif’s birthday was Tuesday—he still feels spry enough to climb onto the roof with his long brush. Chim chimney, chim chimney, chim, chim, chiree.

In the fall, I cut down the spent perennials in the gardens. However, Jason, of the blog Garden in a City, doesn’t cut his down until spring. He feels there is more visual interest in the garden in the winter when the plants are not trimmed. I considered following his example, but spring is such a busy time that I was afraid it would add too much to my gardening chores. I am, ahem, not as quick or spry as I was in my younger years.


It is also time to take in the hummingbird feeders, clean them, and tuck them away until next spring. Those fluttering beauties no longer fly with a whiz around the backyard. They have begun their astonishing migration to warmer lands.

Autumn, to me, feels like a time of subtraction. Yes, we have asters and golden rod, a delightful duo. But along with the hummingbirds, the thrushes have left. I have not heard their piping song for several weeks. Soon, the loons will be gone as well. The nipping frosts will come, turning the landscape to an austere brown.


If it weren’t for the golden slant of light that autumn brings, this subtraction would be almost unbearable. But the light is so beautiful that it fills in for what we have lost.

And then there are the apples, another addition rather than a subtraction. For someone like me, who enjoys making pies and crisps, this aspect of fall is most welcome. No more apples from away, thank you very much. From now until April, all of my apples will come from central Maine.

While I am always sorry to see the passing of summer—farewell, my lovely flowers and hummingbirds—in truth I enjoy all the seasons. They all have their own beauty, from the exuberance of spring to the rich maturity of summer to the golden light of early fall to the glittering cold of winter.

The only season I don’t like is March. Yes, I know. Technically March is a month. But in northern New England this drear month feels like a season unto itself.

But never mind! March is nearly six months away. Right now, I will enjoy the thumping of acorns, the golden light, the bounty of apples, and cats in the garden.









Maya and East Vassalboro, Maine: A Sense of Place in Fantasy

My upcoming book, Maya and the Book of Everything, is a fantasy, and much of the action takes place on a fictional planet called Ilyria as well as in the mysterious Great Library. But some of the novel is set in East Vassalboro, Maine, a real town where my mother lived for over twenty years. I chose East Vassalboro because, through my mother, I came to know it well, and though it be small, East Vassalboro has a keen sense of community.

When Maya and the Book of Everything opens, Maya and her mother, Lily, are on their way to East Vassalboro to spend the summer with Maya’s grandparents—Mémère and Pépère Turcotte. (In another post, I’ll write about Maya’s Franco-American connection.) Maya comes from New York City, and although she loves the city, she also loves the little village of East Vassalboro with its homey charms. img_4587

It has a corner store that smells of oiled floors.


A grange hall, freshly painted inside and out, where there are public suppers, plays, and book sales.


A historical society housed in what was once a school.


A little stream that runs through the center of town.


And most important, a small brick library, surprisingly new. (The old one, a converted cottage, burnt down years ago.)

Why do I use a real village in a fantasy novel? Because it provides a  sense of place that grounds the story. From East Vassalboro, Maine, I can move Maya across the universe, but no matter where we might travel, Maya and I always know where home is.

Birds on the Lake

Despite being quite built up—at least for Maine—Maranacook Lake attracts various kinds of birds. On a bike ride not long ago, I took pictures of three different kinds of birds.

The first was a seagull. I guess nobody told this bird that the ocean is about fifty miles away.IMG_4383

The second was a blue heron. The lakes and ponds around Winthrop have many blue herons, but I don’t usually seem on someone’s float. This bird very obligingly posed and gave me plenty of time to get a picture.


The third was a loon, and as with blue herons, we have many loons in Winthrop. At night, Clif and I can hear them as we sit on our patio. Unfortunately, this bird was too far out for my little camera to get a good shot.


Summer continues to ebb, but the heat and humidity stubbornly persist. Supposedly, a cold front is coming to clear the air. It can’t come too soon for me.

In the meantime, I work on my YA fantasy, Maya and the Book of Everything. Clif has set me up with Google Translate so that I can hear my story read back to me. LibreOffice, the word processor I use, has a read text extension for Google Translate so that my English text is read back to me in English. I expect other programs have a similar feature for Google Translate.

Sometimes the pronunciations are a little funny, and there are glitches from time to time. But all in all, the Google Translate voice is very good, and I have found it enormously helpful just to listen, not to read, Maya and the Book of Everything. I’ve caught a mistake or two, and it really makes me aware of the cadence of my prose. I would highly recommend Google Translate as a useful tool for anyone who is working on a book. It’s slow going, but that’s just fine with me. Too much speeding during the editing process can lead to undetected errors.

Finally, in honor of National Dog Day, here’s a picture of my dog-buddy Liam. He’s unfortunately dealing with a major infirmity, which I will write about more in another post.  But he’s still our boy, and we still love him.


Of Hot Days and a Cool Park

Summer, with its hot days, has finally come to Maine. Since we live in the woods, warm weather isn’t much of a problem for us. We don’t even need air conditioning. A ceiling fan in the hall cools the whole house.

We do have to plan on when to go for bike rides, though—the heat of the afternoon can be a bit much. Yesterday, Clif and I went late morning, and with the temperature in the mid-80s, we both decided we should have gone earlier. Still, one of the things about bike riding is that there is always air moving around you as you pedal, which is great in hot weather but not so good in cold weather. (Oh, I have had some cold rides.)

Clif and I have made good progress with our biking, going to the end of Memorial Drive, about an eight-mile round trip. Our next accomplishment will be to head up Beaver Dam Road, with its long, long incline that could be dubbed Misery Hill. In past seasons, we have found that going up Misery Hill on a regular basis makes us strong enough to go up most any hill in the area. This is a good thing as central Maine is not exactly flat and has plenty of challenges for bike riders.

“When do you think we’ll be ready to go up Misery Hill?” I asked Clif.

“Sometime in July,” he replied.

As the saying goes, time will tell, but I, too, am optimistic that we’ll be strong enough to tackle Misery Hill sometime in July. Then, it will be on to Route 17, giving us about a fifteen-mile round trip ride.

When we got back to our car at Norcross Point, there were lots of people enjoying the water and the shade on this hot day, and I snapped a few photos.  It seems to me that the pictures I took could have come from any time—now, when I was young, and even further back.

Somehow, during these jittery times, this gives me comfort.