Category Archives: Living in Place

Little Green, We Have a Problem

Time was when Clif and I and our daughters hand shoveled and scooped our driveway, which is neither long nor wide. For some reason, it was a chore that Clif and I didn’t mind doing.

But then the years passed. Our daughters moved far away, and we—ahem—were no longer as spry or as strong as we were in our younger days. One Christmas, Dee took pity on her aging parents and bought us an electric snow-thrower, which I promptly dubbed “Little Green.”

Here is Clif with Little Green last winter.

Last Friday, when Clif took out Little Green to clean the snow left behind from our first snowstorm, he had an unpleasant surprise as he turned it on—a loud grinding noise and then nothing. Fortunately, the snow was light and fluffy, and clearing the driveway and walks didn’t require much effort. We were done within an hour.

Because we are Mainers, we always try to fix things when they break. Always. This trait has been passed down by our frugal ancestors. It is in our DNA. So Clif brought Little Green into our dining room. (Little Green is light and easy to carry.) When Clif set Little Green down, there was a mighty rattle, as though marbles were rolling around inside.

No, not marbles. Instead, acorns. Lots of them. Some enterprising rodent had decided that Little Green would be the perfect place to store nuts.

Those acorns snapped both belts, which is why Little Green wouldn’t throw snow.

After much measuring, Clif ordered belts.

Fingers crossed that they arrive before we have a major storm.

If not, Clif and I will go back to shoveling.

Oh, that rascally rodent!

Red Cardinal on a Snowy Day

Today is the right kind of snowy day.  Quite cold—17° F—which makes the snow light and fluffy, and there isn’t much wind to speak of.  This combination means that there are no power outages in the forecast. Music to my ears.

Although I don’t usually post on Thursday, I couldn’t resist featuring these pictures of a male cardinal in the snow. I figured blogging friends who have neither snow nor cardinals would enjoy seeing them. And it’s my guess that blogging friends who have both wouldn’t mind seeing them either.

Any way you look at it, winter has come to northern New England, and I love its sparseness every bit as much as I love the vibrant colors of spring, summer, and fall.

Note: These pictures were taken with my wee camera from the bathroom window, which I opened. The feeder is probably twenty feet away. And the light, shall we say, was not the brightest.

Winter Comes in with a Bang

On Saturday we had our first real snowstorm of the season, an actual nor’easter. Here is what has to say about nor’easters: “A Nor’easter is a storm along the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast. These storms may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April. ”

That, in a nutshell, is a nor’easter. Really, never something you look forward to.

In our area, this storm did not bring much snow, at least by Maine standards—five inches, tops. However, what this nor’easter lacked in snow, it more than made up for in damage. The snow was heavy, and there was high wind. A perfect combination for branches to fall on power lines and knock out power. By Saturday night, around 200,000 households were without power, no small thing in a state with just over a million people.

Fortunately Clif and I did not lose our power, and we were both very, very grateful.

The storm came late in the afternoon, and here are some snow pictures taken just before dusk, when we went out to shovel and scoop for the first time.

The snow frosted the arrangement on the front porch.

The snow coated the hedges, and underneath our Christmas lights glowed.

The snow clung to our trusty winter companions—a bucket of salt for melting icy patches and a shovel.

The snow fell in the front yard, making everything look like Christmas to those of us who live in the north.

The next day, the snow stopped, and the sky cleared. In anticipation of the storm, we had taken in the patio chairs and the little tables. I have a feeling that there won’t be many socially-distanced visits until spring.  To me, the patio looks lonesome.

Finally, here is Clif, looking like a man of the north. He had to use the Great Blue Scoop because what little snow we had was too heavy and packed for Little Green, our valiant electric snow thrower.

In Maine, we must be prepared with all sorts of devices that move snow.


A Splash of Red in an Odd, Gray November

There are no two ways about it—November has been an odd month. In the midst of the pandemic, which sticks its ugly spoke in everyone’s wheel, November in Maine has been the warmest I have ever seen.

Recently, my cousin posted a picture on Facebook of a snow turkey that she, her sister, and a cousin had made in honor of Thanksgiving. When I commented on all the snow, my cousin responded, “Back then, we had snow by Thanksgiving every year.”

Back then was the 1960s, and my cousin lived about fifty miles north of where we live now. Not that far away, really.

This year, in central Maine, we’ve had only a dusting of snow that was soon gone. In deference to the pandemic, we have left four chairs and two little tables out on the patio. We have never had patio furniture out this late, but needs must as the saying goes.

And by gum, my friend Judy came over yesterday for a socially-distanced patio visit. She brought me this beautiful poinsettia. (Or poinsettah, as we would say in Maine.) What a lovely red splash on a gray day or any other day.

Another friend is coming over mid-week to pick up a copy of my YA fantasy Out of Time for her grandson. She told me he has read the previous two books and is keen to read Out of Time.  I always like to hear this, of course, but it especially pleases me when a young boy likes a series that, let’s face it, is girl-centric.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case with boys, who often prefer stories where boys are the main characters. From grandparents and parents, I have heard this sentiment repeated many times at the fairs where we sell our books. Even a brave, spunky character like Maya will not entice some boys to read my novels. Sigh.

But yay for my friend’s grandson!

Almost Like Haiku

In Maine, late fall is a time of subtraction. The golden glow of October has been replaced by the more austere pleasures of November. Gone are the brilliant autumn leaves, and instead we have a landscape that is marked by the dark bones of leafless trees.

However, I find trees beautiful during any season, and to me a tree with bare branches is spare and poetic, almost like haiku.

This picture of our friends’ home—a classic New England farmhouse—illustrates the beauty and sweep of the bare trees.

If you click on the picture, it will enlarge the photo, and you will be able to better see those bare trees and the red roof, which I absolutely adore.

Until spring comes, I will be admiring the bare trees whenever I go for walks.

Less is not necessarily more, but seeing the essence of the trees somehow brings me closer to them.



Walktober: Back to the Narrows

“Walkers have walked to gain a sense of place, to improve well-being, to harness attention, to cultivate awareness, to gain new experiences, to explore new territories, to march for freedom, and to express care and devotion for others.”  –Bonnie Smith Whitehouse

Robin, at Breezes at Dawn, is hosting Walktober, where you take a  walk or a bike ride or a paddle and then share your journey. I borrowed the beginning quotation from Robin because I thought it beautifully expressed the many roles that one simple activity—walking—can provide. Symbolic, practical, protest, curiosity, devotion, exercise— all from walking. No fancy equipment necessary. Just a pair of sneakers and willing feet.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, not long ago walking was painful because of my weight and my arthritic knees. After having lost thirty pounds, walking is no longer as painful, which means I can go short distances and actually enjoy it. (Looking forward to losing more weight and going for longer winter hikes.)

One of my favorite walks is to the Narrows Ponds, about one-quarter of a mile from my house. There is lots of water in Winthrop, but surely the Narrows are among the prettiest.

Yesterday, was one of those October days that makes a person glad to be alive. All the humidity was gone, the air was crisp, and the sky was a piercing blue.

Leaving our driveway, Clif and I turned left, down the long hill to the Narrows. See? I am not exaggerating one bit when I refer to our home “in the woods.”

On the way we saw a yellow fern glowing in the sun,

a chipmunk on a rock,

and walls made long ago when the trees were chopped down and fields stretched all the way to the Narrows. Hard to imagine our road looking like this and comforting to think about how forests can make a comeback.

At the bottom of the hill, we saw a glimmer of deep blue—sky and water—through the bright lace of leaves.

Then a sign reminding us how important this water is to Winthrop.

A short ways later,  the Lower Narrows glittered to our right,

and the Upper Narrows to our left.

There’s not much color this year with the changing leaves. Perhaps it’s because of the drought. Or maybe it’s the many storms we’ve recently had, bringing relief to the drought but blowing the bright leaves off the trees. No matter. It’s a place of beauty, with or without colorful foliage.

After gazing at the water and taking pictures, we headed back up the hill, where we saw mushrooms by the side of the road,

as well as our neighbor’s chickens pecking and looking for tidbits.

Finally, our own snug home tucked in the trees.

Once inside, I made cup of cranberry-orange tea, given to me by a friend, and wrote this post, a record of a short but oh so lovely walk in October 2020,






Slowly, Slowly Getting Back into My Schedule

Last week was truly a gift. The weather was August perfect, a reminder of why people come to Maine in the summer. The days were hot, but not too hot, and the nights were cool enough to need blankets for sleeping.  Much of my time was spent on the patio, where I read, napped, took pictures, and ate. It was absolutely wonderful not to hurry through the day.

One night we had shrimp and Farmer Kev’s corn on the cob. Delicious!

Every evening we had drinks.

As we sipped our drinks and chatted, hummingbirds visited the last of the blooming bee balm. Soon those little lovelies will be gone, winging their way south to warmer weather.

Cardinals also came. But instead of bee balm nectar, they wanted to eat seeds at the brown feeder.

Truthfully, I could use another week off, but there is much work to do over the next few months. However, I am going to ease back slowly, first with blogging and then with other writing—my podcast and the final editing of my book Out of Time.

But all is not labor and toil at our home in the woods. This week we are having a Tri-State Virtual Film Festival where one night the whole family watches a movie and the next evening we get together—via Zoom—to discuss it.

We’ve already seen two movies, and I’ll be writing more about this on Friday as our Tri-State Virtual Film Festival is definitely making me happy.

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.