Category Archives: People

La Reine de Juin

Today, on this first day of summer, is the anniversary of my mother’s birthday. She would have been eighty-two. Ten years ago she died, just before her seventy-second birthday. Too soon, too soon.

But the picture below was taken when she was still young and was just beginning her adult life. (I’ve posted this picture before on her birthday, but I like it so much I decided to post it again.) If my memory is correct, I think this was her graduation picture. Such a fancy dress to wear under the graduation gown. She might have worn this same dress to her prom, but my memory is sketchy about this.

Anyway, here is a little food for thought. Her grandmother—my great-grandmother—never went to school at all. Her mother—my grandmother—only went as far as eighth grade. My mother graduated from high school. In three generations, you can see that progress has indeed been made. (An important thought to hold close during this time when we seem to be taking too many steps back.)

At any rate, happy birthday Rochelle June Dansereau. Surely the first day of summer is one of the loveliest days to have a birthday.

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I Have Been Noted

One of the great delights of blogging is becoming friends with people you normally wouldn’t meet. Some of those friends are not that far—in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Others are actually much farther away—Canada, England, Scotland, and even Australia.

One such blogging friend is Quercus, who lives in England. (He has a blog called Quercus Community.) In response to one of my comments on a recent post, he referred to me as “a noted author of YA fiction.”  So very kind of him, but I replied that “noted” might be overstating the case. He wrote back: “I stand by what I said. If necessary I will write a post tomorrow titled ‘A Note About Laurie Graves’, and then you really will be noted!”

By gosh, Quercus did exactly as he promised, and he wrote a lovely post entitled A Note About Laurie Graves – Author, Raconteur and Eater of Ice Cream. 

I was tickled, touched, and oh so pleased that he would take the time to write about me, to, in fact, note me. Also, as an indie author with a budget as big as a minute, readers’ kind words and promotions really help.

Many, many thanks, Quercus, for noting me. And thanks to all my other blogging friends who have bought and read Maya and the Book of Everything and have been so encouraging.

It really makes a difference.

And, Quercus, thanks to you I will no longer hesitate to state that I am a noted author.

 

 

March Is Here, but So Is Poet Claire Hersom

Tra-la, tra la! March is officially here. Although we Mainers put a brave face on it and even go out for ice cream, we already feel the weight of this too-long month, rightly known as Maine’s fifth season—mud season. So far, there hasn’t been too much mud, but we know it is coming. Yes, we do.

Right now, March, in typical fashion, is whipping us back and forth. One day the weather will be mild with temperatures in the fifties, and the next day there will be a blizzard with over a foot of snow— the forecast for this Wednesday. Mainers take it in stride, but we do complain. A lot. In fact, complaining about March weather is one of our favorite pastimes.

Here is a shot of our backyard as it emerges from winter. Oh, the glory, and it’s just going to get worse. Clif will have to put planks on the walkway so that that he won’t sink into the mud as he hauls wood.

But enough of March! Instead, let us turn our attention to a very fine poet, Claire Hersom. I posted this picture of her a few days ago, but it is so cute—note the sly look on her face—that I thought I’d post it again.

I met Claire about fifteen years ago, when Clif and I published a literary magazine called Wolf Moon Journal. Via the Internet, Claire submitted some of her poems, and I was immediately taken with her use of language and her ability to get to the heart of things.  As if good poetry weren’t enough, I also learned that Claire lived less than a mile from me, but somehow, even in our small town, I had never met her. So funny!

Over the years, we featured many of her poems in Wolf Moon, and we became friends. As it so happened, she introduced her nephew, Mike Mulkeen, to our daughter, Shannon, and the two hit it off immediately. This August, they will have been married eight years.

Claire has published many books of poetry, and her most recent one, published in 2017 by Moon Pie Press, is Dreamscape.

What a lovely cover! As far as I’m concerned, you can never go wrong with blue, and it features snappy art work by her talented granddaughter, Eleanor Rose Folsom.

Claire has generously allowed me to use one of her poems in this post, and I chose “Dreamscape,” also the book’s title. Many, Many thanks, Claire!

Dreamscape 

It’s always in the early, dark morning
when a chill lingers from the night air
that we balance and
suspend in so many forms
at the brink of the precipice –
that first glimmer of day, of hope,
the new beginning hardly noticed
were it not for the argument of birds,
the bending, dew-filled pine,
the hollow stamp of deer outlined
in the grass under our windows.
Settled in last night beside you in dream,
they too waited, their warm fawn bodies
of stick-legs and too-big ears listening
for sounds; the same sounds as you,
eyes never too far from a flutter,
never completely at rest.

 

Five for Friday: If It’s March, Then It’s Time for Ice Cream

Yesterday, March came in like the gentlest of lambs, with sunshine, blue skies, and warm temperatures. This was perfect weather for an outing we had planned with our friends Claire and Mary Jane. Fielder’s Choice, which serves delicious ice cream at great prices, opened for the season, and we wanted to be among the first to christen—with ice cream—the arrival of almost spring. As  you can see from the picture below, we weren’t the only ones there. Mainers are wild about ice cream, and we will head to an ice cream stand even if there is still snow on the ground.

And yesterday, there was still snow on the ground. Note the folded up picnic tables resting against the tree.

Since it was opening day, we all decided to go for broke and get sundaes and parfaits.

Here is Clif with his sundae.

Mary Jane with hers.

And last, but certainly not least, Claire with her parfait.

In the warm sun, we stood and ate our ice cream. (Warm for us, after a cold winter, is 50°F.) I had a hot fudge sundae with peanut butter ice cream. How good it tasted. I gulped down the ice cream the way someone dying of thirst would gulp down water. I felt a little foolish for being such a glutton, but then Mary Jane said, “I don’t know why I ate my sundae so fast.” Clif also finished his lickety-split.  Claire might have done the same, except she met an old friend she hadn’t seen in years, and while we gobbled our treats, Claire chatted with her friend.

After ice cream, there was tea around the dining room table at our house. We talked about family. We talked about movies. We talked about books.

And speaking of books…Claire, a very fine poet, has just had a book of her poetry published. We finished tea with Clif reading aloud one of the poems from her new book.

Monday’s piece for the blog will feature Claire, her new book, and a poem she has graciously allowed me to post.

In the meantime, even if the weather is bad—which it certainly is today on the East Coast—eat ice cream.

 

 

 

Snowy Sunday: Time for Soup and Good Conversation

Yesterday started out as a gray, snowy day. Overnight about four inches of snow fell, which meant Clif had to go out with Little Green to clear the driveway and paths.

Liam, dog of the north, checked out the backyard while Clif worked out front.

Just as Clif finished cleaning the driveway, the sun came out, turning a dull morning into a sparkling day. I have discovered that my bathroom “blind”—where I can open the window and take pictures of birds—also gives me a pleasing vantage point to take shots of the snow and the backyard. As the photos indicate, everything still looks like a winter wonderland, but that is normal for Maine in February.

Here’s a zoom look into the woods, where you can see the snow blowing off the trees.

A snowy day is also a good soup day, and the day before, I had made a white bean soup with chicken sausage, ground turkey, carrots, celery, peppers, and plenty of herbs and spices. That way, all I would need to do was heat the soup when our friend Alice Bolstridge came for lunch.

All right. I also made corn bread, salad, and apple crisp to go with the soup. But the main part of the meal was done and could simmer all morning as I put together the other parts of our lunch.

Alice, a very fine writer, lives in northern Maine, which means we don’t see her very often. But this year, to add some dash to winter, which is even longer up north than it is in central Maine, Alice decided to come to Augusta during the legislative session to acquaint herself with how our state government works. She has rented a room in a lovely old home and goes to various legislative committee meetings, which are open to the public. On occasion, she testifies. Alice even has a blog—Alice on Peace and Justice— where she describes the various sessions she has attended.

No surprise, then, that the afternoon zipped right by as we talked about politics, books, family, and a myriad of other things that cascaded from these subjects. When it was late afternoon, Alice said, “My goodness, I stayed a long time.”

“I’m so glad you did,” I replied.

“There’s no pleasure like good conversation,” Alice said.

“None at all,” I agreed.

Alice is absolutely right. Spring, summer, fall, or winter, there are few pleasures that can compete with having friends over—either for tea or for a meal—and then sit around the dining room table where we talk and eat. It’s a simple pleasure, a respite in a world that is often busy and rushed.

 

 

In Praise of Decency and Hard Work

In the United States, this long weekend is Labor Day Weekend, a time to honor those who, well, labor. In the United States, many people work extremely hard, and hats off to them for all that they do to keep this country running—the teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers, librarians, shop workers, volunteers, those who work at home, the caregivers. I could go on and on and have left many out.  For those at the very top who sponge so much out of society, I hope they appreciate the hard work that keeps them in place. (Snarky, I know, but appropriate for this time of widening inequality in the United States.)

Labor Day weekend is also a time when we bid a bittersweet farewell to summer. Yes, autumn is lovely, and there is much to look forward to, but barbecues and patio time are coming to an end.

Accordingly, we invited our friends Judy and Paul over for a barbecue on Saturday. Judy is a pie maker extraordinaire, and she brought over a raspberry pie for dessert. I nearly jumped for joy when I saw the pie because although I’m keen on all kinds of berries, raspberries are my favorite. As my 60th birthday is coming right up, I immediately proclaimed that this pie was a birthday pie. What then could Judy do but leave the leftovers with us? However, as she told me that she had two peach pies at home, I figured I was, in fact, doing Judy a favor by keeping the leftover raspberry pie. Or so I tell myself.

For the main meal we had potato salad made with sour cream and turkey bacon; chicken breasts marinated in a lemon, garlic, olive-oil  mixture and brushed with a mustard sauce; and corn drizzled with brown butter. Farewell, farewell sweet summer.

Over dinner, one of the topics that came up was the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. So many stories of brave, selfless people helping each other without regard for income, skin color, or ethnicity. Pets were rescued, too, which I found particularly cheering.

For the past week, I had been thinking about the heroism in Texas and about how people really do pull together during catastrophes. Now, if we could just do the same thing when there isn’t a catastrophe, in everyday life.

I mentioned this to Paul and Judy.

“Everyday life is hard,” Judy said.

So it is. Most of us can rise to the occasion and be our better selves during a flood or an ice storm or a tornado. But when things settle down, self interest, pettiness, and even greed too often kick in. While we all need to take care of ourselves and our families, it is very easy to cross the line to selfishness, begrudging others what we think we should have as a matter of course. In short, we have trouble being consistently decent to each other.

Decency, a humble concept, is hard work, something that must be continually applied not only to other people but also to how we treat animals, the earth, the water, the air.

Somehow, thinking about hard work and decency seems appropriate for Labor Day Weekend.

 

Last Sunday in August

Gone are the songs of the tree frogs and the peepers. Instead, we have the buzzing of grasshoppers and the sweet chorus of the crickets. In Maine, summer—lovely summer!—is coming to an end, and what a nice summer it has been. There have only been a few blisteringly hot days when the temperature climbed to the mid-90s. For the most part, it’s been perfect and sunny, between 75° and 80° during the day, and then cooler nights, just right for sleeping.

While autumn in Maine is oh so fine, I will miss summer evenings on the patio, where Clif and I enjoy a drink or two and listen to music. Already, the days are significantly shorter, and by 6:30 it is a little too cool and damp to enjoy sitting on the patio.

Still, we have a couple of months of warm-enough weather so that we can go on bike rides. And with any luck, we’ll be able to ride some of November. After that, well, no matter how much I bundle up, I am too cold to enjoy a bike ride of any length.

One of things I enjoy most about autumn is the nutty smell of the plants as they dry and go to seed. For someone like me, who has a keen sense of smell, every season has its own aroma, each to be enjoyed—even the cold tang of winter.

To celebrate August and late summer, Clif and I invited a few friends over for wine and appetizers. The weather gods were with us, and we had a fine summer’s day to enjoy being outside. As I was bringing appetizers and plates to the table, I noticed a colorful guest on the lawn. While the pictures aren’t very crisp, they are good enough to share.

After a bit of pecking on the lawn, it was back to a tree, where these beauties can usually be found.

Then, I continued setting the table.

Our friends Denny and Cheryl and Judy—neighbors all—came. We sipped wine, drank beer, ate appetizers, which included Clif’s legendary grilled bread, and talked about dogs, books, movies, television shows, movies, and politics.

The hummingbirds whirred to their feeders filled with sugar water. The finches, titmice, chickadees, cardinals, and woodpeckers fluttered, flew, and chirped as they came to the feeders with sunflower seeds.

Dusk came, and the green shadows deepened. By then, the food was mostly gone, and our guests said their farewells. We all agreed this should be a yearly tradition, a salute to the end of summer and a greeting to autumn.