On the bus


It isn’t easy going cold turkey.

For months on end I made a practice of not writing. It became a habit. Now, all of a sudden, I have to stop not writing? Every day? Not only that, I have to stop not thinking. Stop not observing. Stop not daydreaming and not making connections.

It’s a lot to ask for. Especially while I’m sitting on a bumpy bus rattling down a headlight-lit highway from New Hampshire to Boston. The movie “Eddie the Eagle” is being shown on the six overhead screens scattered around the bus and I can’t help getting absorbed by the story. I can’t resist a good going-from-zero-to-hero montage. Besides, it’s so much easier to watch Edie achieve his dream than for me to write a sentence.

So instead, on the bus, while I watch, I’m thinking about things I could tell you.

For instance, I’m thinking about the poet I saw walking down the street in Hanover; the one wearing a t-shirt that said “Neruda.” That guy, he knows who he is.

And I’m thinking about the college student who raced up the sidewalk on her bicycle so fast I thought she might smack into the building behind me, but instead she swooped like a swallow right up to the brick wall, and then, with the most elegant and practiced grace, she dismounted, looped her bike lock around the front tire, and slipped through the building’s door, all in one motion.

And I’m thinking about the Mini Cooper that drove past as I waited for the bus, a skeleton sitting in the front passenger seat, its skull angled so it could look out the open window, its eyeless eye holes watching me.

And I’m thinking that Lin-Manuel Miranda is a cruel genius and today, as usual, I have one of his “Hamilton” songs stuck in my head.

And I’m thinking that I learned today that the word “rowen” means the second crop of hay in a season. And that it also means aftermath.

And I’m thinking about the milkweed pod I saw in the hay field earlier this week. A slow motion explosion of fluff in the shape of a heart. The aftermath of an invisible process of light, temperature, and time. Something a writer could conjure for you in a slow burst of words, if only she could think of the right ones.

Area Woman Has Cold Hands

This was now

Teen Demolishes Mother in Battle of Musical Earworms

In a entirely expected triumph, clever Teen (16) overcame predictable Mom (50) in a battle of the earworms early this morning. Mom came out strong in the first hours of the morning with the Carpenters’ “Close to You,” but she was easily bested by Teen’s “You’ll be Back,” from Broadway’s “Hamilton.” In a final effort to take control of the field, Mom countered with “That 60s Russian La La La” song, but it was too little too late. A rematch is scheduled for this afternoon at school pickup.

Couple Mourns Faithful, Old Friend

“We bought that washing machine the year before H was born,” the couple lamented. “We thought we’d always have it.” Perhaps precipitated by a recent basement clean out and reorganization that included moving a table that the machine leaned against, the 17-year-old Frigidaire Gallery front loader clanked loudly and then spun its last spun two weeks ago. Emergency personal were dispatched, and the machine was pronounced too expensive to fix a short while later. In related news, the couple is happy to announce the adoption of a new machine at this weekend’s Presidents’ Day Appliance Adoption Event.

Gravity Waves and Sings

Scientists working at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced yesterday that they have detected the ripples of gravitational waves pulsing through the fabric of space-time, as predicted 100 years ago by Albert Einstein. The waves, generated by the collision and coalescence of two black holes a billion years ago, reached LIGO last September, waving at the waiting scientists, and singing a chirp of hello. This kind of makes all other reportable news trivial.

Local Guernsey Buck Finally Has Name

Ephraim. It’s Ephraim. Don’t you just love it?

Shy Poet/Photographer Reluctant to Announce New Projects

Our diligent reporter has discovered that Shy Poet/Photographer has been busier than she appears if you use this blog’s output as evidence. Starting late last year, she began contributing a poem a month to the Visual Verse project, where writers respond with poems and short fiction to the website’s monthly image. Her most recent contribution is a terse little verse on the topic of long marriage. Not to be restricted to words, On January 1, 2016, she quietly started a new black-and-white, photo-a-day project called “the composed now.” Shy Poet/Photographer could not be reached for comment.

Area Woman Has Cold Hands (Cover Story)

After an unusually temperate Vermont winter, Mother Nature showed her ornery side this morning,  with temperatures “way the heck too far below zero.” Area Woman whined audibly, while watching the tiny birds at the feeder, seemingly so cold they could barely spare the energy to land on the feeder’s perch. Said Area Woman to Area Man, “Please take the dog for the day so I can go someplace warm.” Area Woman was subsequently spotted at the laundromat (see related story, “Couple Mourns Faithful, Old Friend”) and later at her favorite cafe, where she posed as a writer sipping jasmine tea and thinking deep thoughts while writing this post.

Stone by stone, reply by reply


Sometime in 2013 (the exact date escapes me because, like so many other firsts, I didn’t realize it would be a significant first), I met Ruth.

Well, when I say “met,” I mean something more like “became aware of via a friend via a friend in the online world.” We started to chat online, visiting and commenting each other’s blogs, getting to know each other as much as you can get to know someone who lives on the other side of the ocean.

Which is to say very well, and hardly at all.

Field pinks

What I knew at first is that she’s a terrific artist. What I came to learn later is that she’s also a terrific writer. And a sweet, caring, funny, smart, and thoughtful friend.

It’s also a plus that she loves cheese. And the outdoors. And animals. And Scotland.

Field golds

At some point (another unrecorded date), we started talking about doing a project together. What sort of project we didn’t know, but it seemed like it would be fun to collaborate.

More recently (and now we have a date: July 2014!), inspired by other long-distance, online collaborations (see, for example 3191 Miles Apart and Let Us Go Then You and I), we decided to launch a project that we’ve called And then she replied.

It’s a conversation. An open-ended, meandering conversation where she’ll post something and then I’ll respond somehow, and then she’ll reply to that, and so on.

Ruth started with a mountain. We’ll reply in turn, as it suits (usually within two weeks of the previous post).

Field whites

As I said, Ruth has a way with pen and ink, and paintbrushes, and words; and she experiments with all sort of other art forms, from weaving to ceramics.

As for me, my natural instinct is to reply in words, but I’ve been known to dabble in the dark arts of origami, photography, and sourdough.

Like any real conversation, we have no idea where this will lead or how long it will last, but won’t it be fun to see?

If you’d like to follow the conversation, visit us over at And then she replied. To start at the beginning of the conversation, scroll down to the bottom to see Ruth’s mountain, and then scroll up to see the replies building upon and circling each other. You can join in the conversation, too, by commenting on any of our replies.

Ruth’s last reply was a wink. A way of seeing. I’m ruminating on my reply…

52 Photos ~ My work

Word by word

When I was child, I never had a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I assume various adults asked me the question, but I don’t remember the asking, and I certainly don’t remember my answers. I wanted to read, and play with animals, and sing songs.

For awhile, when I was still under five feet tall and skinny as stick, I dreamed of being a jockey. Later, I imaginined being a large-animal vet. But I worried if I could pass the required math and science classes, and, more than that, I worried that my empathy for animals would be debilitating when it came to hurting them in order to help them.

For pocket money, I did what many teens do: babysat the neighbors’ children. I never much enjoyed it; I didn’t know how to relate to children until I had my own. For a couple summers, I worked at riding stable, grooming horses, mucking stalls, teaching beginners. I loved that dusty, dirty, horse-smelly job, but I didn’t really see a future in it.

One summer, I worked at our family’s hot dog stand at a marina in northern Ontario. It was fun for a bit (free french fries!) until the rush orders came in and I got behind and mixed up who wanted pickles and who wanted onions. Multi-tasking with mustard.

All along, from the moment in first grade when I made the connection between sounds, words, and reading (and I still remember that thrilling moment, clear as a ringing bell), I’ve been doodling with words. I wrote a lot of short stories as a kid. I had a little typewriter and I clacked away on that. Later, typewriters gave way to computers. I found I had a lot of stories inside, bursting to get out.

None of my teachers ever told me I could be a writer.

My father, seeing my interest in writing but being a practical person, suggested that I be a technical writer. I shunned that idea. No way. Not for me. I told my favorite high school English teacher about the idea. She said, “You know there’s a reason they call computer terminals TERMINAL.”

Enough said.

I entered college as an English major with no real thought in my head of what job that would lead to. I just loved to read and write. And four years of that sounded kind of like I was getting away with something delightful.

In my senior year, I took a class called “Advanced Expository Writing” (these days, I suppose it would be called “Creative Non-Fiction”). The professor was one I adored, and feared. He made me nervous because he knew so much, had such strong opinions, and felt so deeply about the written word. I supposed I feared him because I wanted so much to impress him.

The class required us to write a lot of persuasive and personal essays. I’d never done that before (by then, I was writing a lot of poems, and a lot of research papers). It suited me. I enjoyed that new expository voice I didn’t know I had. Two times that I remember, he singled out sections of my essays to read to the class, in his slow, precise, expressive voice. It set me aglow.

One day, he asked me what I planned to do when I graduated. I said I didn’t know. I was thinking maybe of becoming a technical writer. He paused, looked straight into my eyes, and said “Why?”

Well, the answers were obvious, but I knew what he was asking. The truth is, I didn’t have the faith in myself then to be a writer. A REAL writer. A poet. Or an essayist. A storyteller. I needed an apartment, a job, a bridge from university student to adult, and writing about computers was one way to do it.

That career has served me well. You might say excellently. It made my life. Because of it, I met M, and we had H. Because of it, I could contribute financially to our life in this old farmhouse, get goats, take trips, make life-long friends. All this by stitching words together.

But the story isn’t over yet.

More and more, in the evenings and the mornings, I steal time to write those poems and essays. Someday, when I grow up, I might just be a real writer…


This photo and post are in response to this week’s theme for the 52 Photos Project. You should participate, too! Read about how it works here. You can see a gallery of everyone’s photos for this week’s theme here. To see a list of all my blog posts for this project, go here.

Getting (back) on board

You may think I’ve forgotten about you, but I really haven’t.


I have been writing and writing. I have hundreds of photos. I have draft posts and ideas for more. I have favorite songs to share. I have memories to try to capture. I have recipes!

What I don’t seem to have right now is time (or is it the will?) to finish anything so that it’s presentable to you.

Maybe I’m worrying too much.

Maybe it’s been so long that I’ve posted that I feel stuck.

Well, today I’m hereby unsticking myself.

That was easy, eh?

Okay, I’m here. Summer vacation has started (at least for the school-going member of this family).

The fireflies were out last night.

H and I ran errands yesterday, and sang along in the car to some of our favorite summer songs.

People all over the world, join hands.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more 🙂

Wintry mix

I’m home alone today, with no work to do, my piles of papers filed, the tax packet ready to send off, my office more or less cleaned, and nothing I must do.

The weather outside is a bit nasty, with what they like to call “wintry mix” falling. The term wintry mix might sound to some resident of the tropics like the name of an annual flower seed mixture, but it’s decidedly not that. The technical definition is: “yuck from the sky.”

But also throw into the mix:

One wood stove purring along gently, throwing its glow and heat in my specific direction. One cat stretched out in front of said stove, hogging the entire dog bed. Another cat installed practically underneath the stove. One mug of freshly brewed tea. One stack of books to be browsed. One fully-charged computer. One darling husband who took Mr. Needy Dog away for the day. One daughter happily busy at school. One barn full of goats, safe and cozy and independent until at least mid-afternoon. One fully-stocked refrigerator.

And hours. And hours. And hours.

What am I doing here?

I started writing this post weeks ago.

At the time, the title seemed apt, but now it feels like I should rename it, “What am I not doing here?”

Maybe the questions—and answers—are one and the same: Why do I feel compelled to write here — to write at all? And why haven’t I been doing it?

Why am I here? (Why are any of us here? ha…ha…ha…)

Well, to begin with, I started this blog to share pictures and information about our house move/renovation 5+ years ago with family and friends. Plus, I was intrigued by the notion of self-publishing on the Internet, instantaneously, on my own schedule.

Then the house was moved and, little by little, we finished that project and got busy living.

So, why am I still here?

  • To exercise my writing muscles. To learn to write. To be a writer.
  • To discover what I think. What I know. And what I don’t.
  • To communicate with you, my imagined audience. To tell you about me and my family and to hear about you and yours.
  • To create a record of Hyla’s childhood, so someday she can read about the little, everyday events that made up our lives, watch videos of her recitals, see pictures of friends, and recall the day the frost dragon climbed to the top of snow mountain.
  • Because, on a good writing day, when words flow and images become thoughts and then become paragraphs, I’m having fun. When I get it right, there’s hardly anything that makes me feel happier.
  • Because, as my friends Kelsey and Mrs. Dalloway remind me, I like life, and writing (rather than giving parties) is one of the ways I can express it.

I have plenty of reasons to write, but that doesn’t explain why I’m not writing. Haven’t I said before, here in fact, that I mean to write more, and more often, and better? What’s my problem?

The truth is that I do write. Every day. In my head. The problem is that I don’t give myself the time to put it down on the page. There’s always something else that should be done or could be done first.

Writing is fun work. Writing is a treat. The writing can wait until everything else is done, I tell myself.

Apparently not. Everything else will never be done.

So, enough of that. Let’s just get to it. Are you waiting to write? Or waiting to do the thing you love to do because you have to do all those other things first? Let’s see if we can steal even 15 minutes every day (and more if we can) to do the one simple thing we love to do.

See you back here tomorrow?