Write on Wednesday – My Brain Is a Many Storied Thing – September 26, 2018

Lately I’ve been thinking about my brain as a department store with multiple stories. It has an elevator with an operator who takes me to different floors.  If you’re not old enough to remember elevator operators in their perky uniforms, you’ve probably seen them in movies. Second floor – Ladies apparel. Third Floor – Men’s Haberdashery. Fourth floor – Home Furnishings. The elevator operator knew what was on all the floors and was happy to answer questions. Something was lost when escalators and self-guided elevators became the norm.

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I’ve realized that while I am doing all the other things I do during the course of my life, my brain is navigating the department store that is my novel revision. The store has a lot of floors, one for each of the many characters in my book, and the elevator is whizzing up and down trying to keep details straight. It’s best if that happens when I’m at my computer. If I’m not and I wonder if what Yvie said in Chapter Two is consistent with what she tells her twin sister three scenes later, I have to stop what I’m doing – like folding laundry – and go to my computer to find the two relevant places in the text.

Folding laundry is easy to stop and restart. Searing scallops for dinner is another matter.  That requires me to hold a thought until I can write it down. Scallops do not wait. And my brain elevator may get stuck between floors.

Those niggly details pop up at unexpected times and demand attention.  Sometimes the scribbled notes I made don’t make any sense. Why can’t my  elevator operator take notes? Which makes me wonder — is this the sort of thing I could tell Alexa, if I had one?

My department store brain also has a basement, but the elevator operator – his name is Bob – doesn’t like to go down there. Bob says sometimes the elevator goes there all on its own and weird stuff gets on. I have known that to happen.

Six on Saturday – No Flo – September 22, 2018

Tuesday, the day the remnants of Hurricane Florence hit our part of the mid-Atlantic region I spent the morning on Poplar Island. Clouds in the photos below were all we got. Some rain was predicted but we didn’t get any until the afternoon and it was minimal. We are all so grateful we were not in Florence’s direct path.

My Six on Saturday starts with Poplar Island. Here’s the backstory.

Poplar Island was a 1140 acre, crescent shaped island in the Chesapeake Bay in 1847. It had a town called Valliant which included a school, a post office, a church, a sawmill, a general store and about 100 residents.  Erosion ate away at the island and by 1920 the last permanent resident had gone. By 1990 the island had been reduced to 5 acres.  In a joint project of the U.S. Army Corps and Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the island has been recreatedt using dredged materials from the Chesapeake Bay’s approach channels to Baltimore where there is a thriving port. Dredged materials from Baltimore harbor are not used because they are contaminated.  Poplar Island is now back to 1140 acres with an additional 575 acres planned. This is the Wikipedia link if you want more information.

  1. Our group from the St. Michaels Woman’s Club boarded a boat on Tilghman Island for the twenty minute ride to Poplar Island. We started the tour with a guide who gave us an introduction and then boarded the bus for an informational trip around the island. The garden pictured is maintained by Maryland Master Gardeners. The mosquitos were ferocious.

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2. Tours are free and this was my fifth trip over the last ten years. The island has changed dramatically since my original visit when the island was comprised of “cells” waiting to receive dredged materials. Now the island is lush with native plant material. One hundred and seventy-five species of birds use the island, but the biggest wildlife success is the terrapin hatchlings which have a 99% survival rate because there are no foxes or racoons on the island – yet. Typical terrapin hatchling survival rate is 10%. Some baby terrapins are fostered by selected school classes and the kids return to Poplar island for an emotional release of the turtle they named and raised. Eventually the island will be a wildlife refuge of half wetlands and half uplands and will be closed to the public.

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3. This view shows work on the projected additional 575 acres. Most of the island looked like this when I first visited.

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My final three photos are from my garden.

4. Hyacinth bean vines are still blooming but are also creating beautiful, glossy purple pods.

5. The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) plant’s airborne seeds are flying.

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6. Six feet tall (even after a fourth of July cutting back to half), this aster is just coming into bloom. Another plant that someone gave me. I don’t know the name and when I googled tall asters none of those listed grew this tall. Another shorter aster hasn’t started blooming yet. It needs to hurry up.

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That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Write on Wednesday – Won’t You Be My Neighbor – September 19, 2018

Our local movie theater in Easton, Maryland, has an Encore series on Thursdays. Movies at 1pm, 4pm and 7pm. My husband and I often go to the 4pm and then to dinner at Osteria Alfredo. For a small town Easton has its share of good restaurants and this is one of them. Excellent food and service…unless they are understaffed which happens from time to time. Osteria Alfredo is the same restaurant where the Stinky Book Club meets monthly. Although in Book Club emails the restaurant has been called Feckless Ostriches, Freaky Ostriches, Fractured Ostrich, Forsaken Ostrich, Ostrich Frenzy,  and Foolish Osprey. What can I say? We are three writers who like to play with words. I think the Ostrich part started when Laura’s husband could never remember the name of the restaurant.

The Thursday films are eclectic. Sometimes the things you would see at an art house. Sometimes a film that will be at the theater for only one day.  Sometimes films suggested by the regular attendees. The 4pm show is often sold out and the Osteria, which is in the same shopping center, is packed with those of us who like to go to bed early.

Last week my husband and I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a documentary film about Fred Rogers.

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Filmmaker Morgan Neville delves into the life of the Fred Rogers, the man behind the show my children watched. I came out of the theater with a pocketful of wadded up Kleenex and a need to call my adult kids and tell them how special I think they are.

Read the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and you’ll wonder, as I did, where are the Mister Rogers of today? We need them.

 

Six on Saturday – Waiting for the Florence – September 15, 2018

Wednesday, Sept 12: I’m starting to write this post earlier than usual because a major hurricane is coming our way and we may lose power by the weekend. As of this morning (Wednesday) the track has altered and now we are supposed to get less rain and wind. But the track may change yet again so we are prepared. We have a generator which my husband fires up weekly to make sure it will start. We have extra gas on hand. Flashlights are ready with fresh batteries. We bought bottled water and have lots of food. We won’t go hungry.

  1. Harvest: In preparation for the storm I harvested the spaghetti squash that I planted in July. I had eight full size squash and one immature. This was a fantastic harvest for me. Planting late seemed to be the solution to borer predation.

I also harvested Japanese eggplants. I can’t remember the specific variety. These were on two plants that came from Lowes. I plan to make parmesan oven fries from these. Yum!

I looked at the few beets remaining and decided they weren’t worth pulling. The beans are over the hill and will go on the compost. We are hunkered down and waiting.

One of my volunteer activites is to send out the weekly MailChimp reminder about our local Farmers Market. It goes out on Thursday morning to let folks know what the vendors will have on Saturday, if there will be music or a food demo and information about any pop-up vendors. In consultation with the Market Manager we decided a decision will be made late on Thursday about whether the market will be open or not. The Manager will then send out a notice to our email list. I have the format set up. Amanda will plug in the final information and hit “send.”

Living so close to the water we have to be aware of tides and the direction the wind pushes the water. We had over seven inches of rain last week and the Miles River is full to dock levels. Many waterfront properties are just a foot or two above sea level. Our little house is on a slight rise and we are 13′ above sea level. It would take a major flood to effect us. The thing I worry about is trees uprooting. The soil is already saturated and lots more rain and high winds could be problematic. I noticed yesterday that a neighbor had cut down a large pine that was listing.

Thursday, September 13: I took some photos before the rain starts. I expect the flowers will be down for the count by the end of the weekend.

2. Goldenrod (Solidago) is finally showing some color. It’s planted in front of miscanthus Morning Light.IMG_7312

3. I pulled out a lot of sedum “Autumn Joy” last year and planted it on my neighbor’s side of one of my lattice property dividers so they’d have this view from their porch.  On the mid-right you can see the pile of sticks that I’m collecting. After the storm there will be lots more.IMG_7297

4. Another sedum with a hot pink bloom is just beginning to flower. I think it is called Neon Pink.

5. Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana). A friend gave me a start and it has survived/thrived in the difficult bed near the shed. I notice that the blooming clump of variagated liriope is also doing well. I have it a number of places in the garden. Perhaps I should divide some and use it to edge that problem area which is often under water.

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6.  More sedum “Autumn Joy” and hostas between two silver maples. The bench is teak and came from my mother’s garden. My brothers and I gave it to her for her 75th birthday. In my 75th year I enjoy sitting on it and watching kids ride their bikes through my neighborhood. I had the bench pressure washed a couple of years ago and it was like new (except where the squirrels chewed on the armrests) but I rather like the lichens that grew back. Leaves are beginning to fall.

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Friday, September 14: Storm update: It appears now that Florence’s impact on our area will be rain next Monday and Tuesday. It doesn’t sound ominous for us, but I am thinking about all the millions of people in the way of this storm. In hurricanes water is always the biggest threat to life.

The Saturday Farmers Market is on so I’ll be able to get fresh mushrooms, a loaf of crusty sourdough bread and some organic pork chops for the weekend. I’ve got homemade tomato sauce in the fridge to spoon on top of spaghetti squash. I’ll sprinkle Pecorino Romano cheese on top and run it under the broiler for a minute or two. We’ll eat like we are in Italy…or maybe France. I’m trying to decide which bottle of wine to open. I love thinking about food. Almost as much as I love being in the garden.

That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

 

 

Write on Wednesday – Full Steam Ahead – September 12, 2018

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For the past two weeks I have been purging my office, culling old files and crawling under the furniture to dust. I brought in a new filing cabinet, removed a piece of furniture and repostioned a ceiling tall bookcase. All in anticipation of getting back the first full critique of the third book of my Caribbean series —  the whole thing. I’ve had helpful critiques on chapters by my Working Writers Forum group, but this was the whole manuscript and I wanted the decks cleared.

That happened on Saturday morning. I have to admit I was anxious. I knew this editor, who is also a friend, would give me her unvarnished opinion. And she did. Some parts she liked and she had some excellent suggestions for how to fix some things I knew just didn’t work. She brought to my attention story threads that had been left hanging.

There were a number of places where she noted that what I knew in my head about the characters had never made it onto the pages. I suppose all of us who write long fiction struggle, at some point in the process, of being too close to the story to know what is missing. She also made a detailed spreadsheet for me which included (among other things) the timeline, where and when characters appeared, and thematic issues. I printed it out on legal size paper and taped pages together.  This will be easier for me to work with than referring to the computer screen.

My next step is to read through all the notes in the manuscript. There are some plot and character arcs that need attention. I need to think about those and make some fix-it notes before I start the rewrite. My goal is to be ready to begin by the end of the weekend.

Full steam ahead.

Six on Saturday – September 8, 2018 – Fall on the Way

It doesn’t feel like fall yet. Our weather has been hot and humid. Stepping outside is like stepping into a sauna, but my husband is talking about moving firewood to the deck — when it cools off. He’s not into the gardens so much, but a fire everynight though the fall and winter is his thing. He takes total responsibility for ordering and stacking wood. We are always a cord and a half ahead so we have really nice, dry oak to burn. Coming from a house with five fireplaces, I am thrilled we are down to one.

  1. This was the week one of the river birches was removed. There is a flowering cherry, a small maple and a crepe myrtle that will fill in a lot of that area. I need to spend some time sitting and looking before I jump in and plant anything. The people who removed the tree also ground the stump. I need to dig some soil into the grindings and let it sit for a bit.
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Before

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After removal of river birch

2. Black-tailed Swallowtail. I have been watching the three chrysalis that I found. One hatched before I noticed. Another is taking forever which seems very odd. I think it’s dead.  And the third isn’t doing anything yet. Lots of black swallowtails are flying in the garden so I guess the birds didn’t get all the caterpillars. The fuzzy photo below is one that sat briefly on some foliage. One of its wings was deformed so I wondered if it had just hatched and wasn’t totally unfolded yet or was at the end of its life span.

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3. My Beauty Berry (Callicarpa) is beginning to turn purple. Some rubeckia have grown through making a nice diplay. When I googled Beauty Berry to get the scientific name, I also saw a link for Beauty Berry jelly. I don’t have enough berries to make jelly but it never would have occured to me to do so. The color would have said POISON to me.IMG_7262

4. Along my morning walk a Blackberry lily is seeding. I wonder if I could successfully grow this from seeds. The spring flowers are red orange.

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5. Figs from a friend were made into fig jam. I used the jam recipe in the SureJell package but substituted one cup of brown sugar for one of the cups of white sugar and added some vanilla. It is much better than my fig jam from last year. I made notes in my Bell Canning book from forty years ago.

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6. A stop at a local nursery where all shrubs were 40% off meant I brought three Heller’s Japanese Hollys and three Osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ home.  This wasn’t as impulsive as it sounds. I had been there earlier in the week and didn’t buy anything.

I don’t know where they will go yet, but probably in the area where the river birch came out.  I can stick the pots in the area and move them around to see what I like. There some abelias that don’t get so tall that I also have my eye on. If they are still there when things go to 50% off, I may get a couple.IMG_7281

That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Six on Saturday – September 1, 2018 – Dominoes

I’m in a hurry this morning. And all because I want to put a small freezer in our garage. That required getting some electrical work done. And the freezer would displace one of two tall filing cabinets. I could use that second one in my office, I thought. To ready the garage for the work, things had to be moved away from the wall. Everything is now piled in the middle of the garage but the electrical work has been completed. Finding a small freezer is not so easy.

And in order to put the filing cabinet into my office I needed to reconfigure the furniture. That involved moving a ceiling height bookcase full of ten years worth of stuff that needs to be sorted and pitched. And what was on top and underneath of another table. All of that is now in my dining room. I discovered that the place I wanted to put the bookcase is where an old HVAC outlet is. It’s ancient and stuck out from the wall so I removed it and placed a cover on the floor. Not as easy as that sounds, but it is ready for a piece of baseboard. All this had to be done before I could think about moving the bookcase — just to see if I liked it in the new position. That will happen this morning. Hence the hurry with my Six on Saturday.

  1. Last fall I left Elephant ear tubers in the ground near the garage to see if they would survive the winter temperatures. They were very slow to come up in the spring, but look at the size. I will no longer spend time digging and story the tubers. These are the leaves I made my cement leaf castings from last year.

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2. The wheelbarrow is planted with mint so it won’t escape. I put one coleus plant in the front and some leftover sunpatiens in a pot next to it. Added some drip irrigation. Now I can hardly find the mint. I really do love chartreuse in my garden. The nesting box in the upper left corner hosted two hatchings of Carolina wrens this summer.

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3. This photo is just because it was so pretty this morning. We got some much needed rain last night.

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4. Two window boxes from the front of the house. I thought I had killed one of the plants by putting soapy water on it. Then I read a post by Tony Tomeo (one of the SoSers) who showed a plant with a mildew problem. He said it spread quickly. It looked very similar to the leaves on my Sunpatiens, so I took out two of the boxes that looked like they had been effected and cut the stems back. They are coming back and in a week will go back where they were. We still have two months of warmish weather so they’ll fill in. Thanks, Tony!

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5. The dry spell has done in at least five of my azaleas. The drip irrigation just wasn’t enough. I like the white repleat bloomer which seems to have survived just fine so will try to find more of those. The plants that look dead may come back from the roots but I don’t want to wait that long.

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6. I could only find three chrysalis that the black swallowtail caterpillars made. I guess the birds ate the rest. I must have had at least thirty caterpillars. Will this be a butterfly this fall or not until next year? If next year, should I try and put them in a more protected place?

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That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Now back to sorting out my garage and office. The garden will have to wait.