for those who might be writing…

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poetry, shopping lists, journals, letters, cookbooks, novels. This is for you.

I’ve been here, mostly writing, sometimes folding laundry, often staring out at the frozen world, trying to remember to eat lunch. I sent a big stack of pages into my editor last week, and an hour later, Sadie broke her arm and Rosie got the flu. They’re both okay now, and Sadie’s proving to be a brave wonder (as if I didn’t already know). Now I get to wash Sadie’s hair for her, just in the time I was feeling like she was getting so big, she didn’t need me so much. In the spaces in between, I push away from the desk and read a few pages of this, or this, or this. I’ve been researching the part of my family I don’t know. I’ve been thinking I should probably get to England one of these days. I’m a little scattered. I try to keep the bowl filled with citrus, so I can walk into the kitchen and have something quick to do. I slice the top and tail clear off, and trim the thin or hefty walls, depending on the variety. I pull the sections from their pith, or I slice the whole fruit in star-like rounds. I beg a few leaves from the mint plant in the windowsill and rip them into tiny bits, then I let it snow with a little sugar. It sits in its juice while the water boils for coffee, and that’s it. It’s 3-ingredient sunshine.

A few links, for those who might be writing.

This, on writing even though there will be comments, from the wise and clear-as-a-bell Dani Shapiro.

And while we’re on the subject, this, on praise and blame.

And oh, oh, oh! this on writing for our heroes.

This video with George Saunders. (I know, I know, you’re writing! But this will help- I promise.)

This, from Tara, on not dabbling.

And even if you’ve read this before, it’s worth a reread, on writing like a motherfucker.

Happy Thursday, friends. Hope the sun is shining in, even if it’s only the citrus kind.

 

 

bringing it back

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In December, I bought nuts. I bought them for stocking filler, because somewhere I got the idea it was the sort of thing people do. When I saw them at the grocery store, all mixed and in their shells, I threw them in the cart. I got that little zing that I get when I do something I’ve never done before. Nuts in their shells. How novel! 

I also bought a cheap nutcracker at the hardware store, and I put that in Sadie’s stocking, too. And on Christmas morning, we had a lot of nuts on the floor. We cracked nuts. We ate some nuts. They were good. I didn’t think too hard about it.

But by the end of the night, I remembered that, in fact, my Grandmother had put nuts in my stocking when I was a kid. Not only that, but there was always a nut bowl on their coffee table. Always. It was made of some of that 70′s pottery they loved, and in the center of the bowl, ready to be used by anyone who had the desire, was a nutcracker exactly like the one I had bought at the hardware store for Sadie’s stocking. My grandparent’s nut bowl lived on top of a cedar chest they used as a coffee table, and, when I was cold, I’d take the bowl of nuts off the chest, open up the lid, and breathe in the smell of the chest. Out would come the scratchy orange wool blanket, which I’d tuck around my legs before lowering the lid of the chest, putting the nut bowl back on it, and cracking a few nuts.

I’d thought this whole nut bowl thing was my bright idea when really all along I was working from memory. So much for originality.

From Christmas on this year, we had the nut bowl, and every time someone would stop by, they’d remark on the nut bowl.

“My grandparents used to have a bowl of nuts on the coffee table!” they’d say. I’m serious. Everyone was happy to see the nut bowl, but most of all, the it was a favorite of the younger set. Kids who would have normally been antsy while their parents sat and had a beer with me and Joey sat contentedly by the fire, cracking nuts for hours. ”Why does no one have nuts on the coffee table any more?” their parents would ask.

My question exactly. Because there are so many good things about the nut bowl. It means there’s always something reasonably healthy and protein-filled on which to snack. It means there’s always something to do with your hands. It’s an activity, a treat, and a nervous habit all at once. It’s the new thing in snack food. It’s out and ready for guests- always. And the satisfaction when you crack the shell and dig out the glorious meat inside? Well, you’ll have go back in your own memory for that one. Grandparents? Coffee table? Ringing a bell?

Either way, I move we bring it back. Come on by! I just refilled the bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

congee with yams and miso sauce

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In January,

when the world freezes and we, layered

shuffle towards warmth, even

carrying it with us

whenever we can, looking forward Continue reading

first of the month: let’s start with a song

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We have a little get together on New Year’s Eve every year where we pretend we’re in London so we can celebrate at 7:00. It started way back when I was pregnant with Rosie and we had a few friends over who were also pregnant and would never make it until midnight. It’s grown a bit since then, so every New Year’s day holds a bit in common with the one before it, that is, I’ve had too much Champagne even though I swore I wouldn’t have any, and I always say goodbye to the last year and hello to the next while I’m doing dishes with Joey. Hooray, hooray, we say. Another year, another load for the dishwasher. Continue reading

walking

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What can we call this week? This week, between Christmas and the New Year, when the frenzy is over, but we’re still taking a break from the rest of life? We’re still living on chocolate bars from the stockings, and we forget to eat lunch. This is the week, every year, when Sadie gets a cold, and she huddles in bed and confesses she’s been reading a book about a girl who has consumption, and asks does she have consumption? And why, she asks, do I always get sick on school vacation? And I answer, like I always do, that it’s because she needs a rest, and her body’s telling her it’s time to slow down and  read a couple a dozen books, which she does. I go into town for more library books, and the streets are filled with people who must have bought special coats for their week in the Berkshires. They all wear shiny puffer coats in black or silver, with tall spotless boots and fancy knit caps. I imagine there must be a section of every department store in New York marked “Berkshire Wear.” There must be, or else how would they all be wearing the same thing? They’ve been skiing, and now they’re fighting about where to eat dinner. I kind of love them. I want to take them home with me and cook them dinner. But I stay quiet and they stay fighting and we just walk around each other on the narrow sidewalk.  Continue reading