Thursday, January 29, 2009


Love is anterior to life
Posterior to death,
Initial of creation, and
The exponent of breath.

--Emily Dickinson

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Car of My Dreams

Aston Martin DB5. Need I say more?

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I'm feeling a bit down tonight. My young son-in-law is facing one of life's unexpected ordeals and it weighs heavily on my mind. Hang in there kiddo. We all love you to pieces. There will be scars. Life inflicts scars. Nobody is immune. Scars tell stories. They are deep. Scars are life changing, life affirming, badges of courage.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Le Sanglier. The wild boar of France, sus scrofa scrofa. Shy, not often seen, but much maligned, le sanglier is the most hunted mammal in France. It is considered to be very dangerous but this is "largely unfounded" according to Most dangerous is the female who "will understandably protect her young if she feels threatened." This is where my story begins...

In 1997, my sister Rhonda and I visited Provence. We were taking a few last minute pictures of the countryside on our last day. We had just visited the hilltop village of Brantes and were meandering our way to the Marseilles airport. Nearing Beaumes de Venise, we pulled in to a picnic area to snap a few pictures of the "Dentelles de Montmirail", a rock formation resembling dog teeth or lace, no one is sure (dentelle could mean either in French).

Rhonda and I were standing beside our car when suddenly I caught a glimpse of a strange looking deer, or dog, or "Oh my God!" it's a wild boar!!! There she stood, snorting and grunting at us, her teats hanging nearly to the ground ---very menacing indeed. We jumped into the car, she ran back into the bushes and that was that.

The following year, my husband and I traveled back to France. In Beaune, the wine "capital" of Burgundy, we found this wine bottle stopper in a kitchen shop. My husband fashioned an Oregon wine cork to "Madame", our very own Sanglier.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Monsieur Milbert, Asparagus Bed, and Bitter Cress

Monsieur Milbert, the crusty old gardener profiled in Amanda Hesser's wonderful book, The Cook and the Gardener is my gardening conscience. When he is preparing his asparagus beds in January, I feel guilty if I am not out in the garden doing the same. For several years I have used this book as my kitchen garden calendar. The climate in Western Oregon is very similar to that of Burgundy, so it works. Earlier last week, when I looked ahead to this weekend's weather forecast, I was hopeful. But, yesterday we didn't break 40 degrees. Today, the sun came out, and the temps came up, but so did the northeast breeze, bringing in the wind chill factor. Since I am a lazy gardener, I decided to take pictures and then post on my blog instead. Maybe next weekend, Monsieur Milbert...

Not only is the asparagus bed a mess, but those little "poppy" weeds are sprouting up EVERYWHERE. A few years ago we noticed an ever-increasing plague of these pretty little weeds. They are edible but with two Scottie dogs in the yard, we prefer to toss them into the weed bucket. "Bitter cress" is the common name. We call them "poppy" weeds because if they set seeds, they "pop" everywhere when touched. A friend told us that the Forest Service planted bitter cress for erosion control and now everybody has them in their garden. Whether or not this is true, it sounds possible. Anyway...we hate bitter cress.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Wine of Solitude

To lift such a heavy weight
Sisyphus, you will need all your courage.
I do not lack the courage to complete the task
But the end is far and time is short.

The Wine of Solitude
by Irene Nemirovsky for Irene Nemirovsky

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ralph's Thesaurus

I own Ralph's thesaurus. Occasionally, I lift it off the bookshelf to look up a synonym or antonym. While there, I usually spend more time figuring out how it "works". Mine is old. It is a "Roget's International Thesaurus", published by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York. It is of the twenty-first printing, dated March 1961. It has a faded red cover and is "shaken". This means the spine does not hold the book upright any longer. It "slumps" on the shelf.

As I said, mine used to belong to Ralph L. Segal. I know this because his name is to be found on the front, on the inside, and on the top edge. A sticker on the outside front cover has a blue background with a white "swoop" in the center. In the "swoop" someone, presumably Ralph, has typed "This Book is The PERSONAL PROPERTY OF RALPH L. SEGAL A-78032". Below this statement is Ralph's signature written using blue ink. On the inside, at the very top of the title page, is another ownership statement, also written in cursive, in blue ink, "This book is the personal property of Ralph Segal." On the top edge is another signature, in large awkward letters. Which makes sense. It is difficult to write on the top edge of a book. I wonder what "A-78032" means? Was Ralph in prison? Doubtful. Was he in boarding school or in the military? How often did he use his (my) thesaurus? Did he have it by his side, at his fingertips? Is this the only thesaurus Ralph owned? Well, Ralph's is not the only thesaurus I own.

I have a computer connected to the internet. This means I have another thesaurus, actually many thesauri, at my fingertips. Any one of them is literally at my fingertips! It does not have to be lifted off the shelf, its shaken body opened, its insides a mystery to be solved. It has not been claimed by Ralph L. Segal A-78032 as his own PERSONAL PROPERTY. But, there is a drawback to everything.

I have heard a rumor about online thesauri. These little marvels do not offer as many word choices. This presents a dilemma, or a perplexity, a quandary, a confoundment, bewilderment, disconcertion, embarrassment, fix, hobble, pucker, confusion, muddle, muddlement, puzzle, puzzlement, baffle, bother, or an alternate choice, or a predicament. To be true to the craft, should not one avail oneself of ALL the possibilities? And, who gets to choose which words to include? Does this not make the online thesaurus "abridged"? Does one want "selected" synonyms? Since the online thesaurus is so easy to use, so available, perhaps the tradeoff is instant gratification. If ALL the possibilities were listed, one would have to work at it a bit. It would be kind of like trying to figure out how to use the printed Roget's Thesaurus. Also, if the electricity goes out, and I am writing my novel by candlelight, and I need a synonym, what would I do?

Today I vow to move my Roget's Thesaurus off the dusty bottom shelf of my little bookcase. Its new home will be on the far left side of the middle shelf of my big bookcase. This new home will be right beside my desk, just to the right of my chair. Now I have a real Roget's Thesaurus at my fingertips. All the possibilities. Used, faded, shaken. Just like me, and maybe just like Ralph.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dream Sequences

I dislike dream sequences in movies and books. I do not like to listen to someone describe their own dreams. Dreams disappear from our conscious memory almost immediately because they are only mental housekeeping functions. Dreams may have significance in therapy because they shine a light, but to me, they are utterly boring. That said, Lockwood’s dual nightmare sequence in Chapter 3 of Wuthering Heights is most compelling.

The first part of the dream describes Lockwood and a servant, Joseph, going to hear a famous pastor preach from the text “Seventy Times Seven” and it appears that either Lockwood or Joseph has committed the “First of the Seventy-First” sins and were to be publicly exposed and excommunicated. Lockwood sits through a sermon of four hundred and ninety parts, each a full-length sermon on a separate sin. Lockwood wonders where the pastor found so many different sins, some previously unknown to Lockwood. When he tires of this sermon, he stands up and exhorts the congregation to pull the pastor down from the pulpit and "crush him to atoms". Instead, the pastor shouts "Thou art the man!" (and I thought "your're the man!" was a modern "hip" phrase...ha!), the congregation sets upon Lockwood and begins to beat him to smithereens. He hears loud tapping noises from the pulpit, wakes up, and realizes the noise is coming from fir boughs rattling against the window panes. He falls back asleep and dreams again.

Another nightmare, worse than before:

This time, I rememberd I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir-bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into a staple: a circumstance observed by me when awake, but forgotten. "I must stop it, nevertheless!" I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, "Let me in - let me in!" "Who are you?" I asked, struggling, meanwhile to disengage myself. "Catherine Linton," it replied, shiveringly...I'm come home: I'd lost my way on the moor!" As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child's face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed "Let me in!" and maintained its tenacious grip, almost maddening me with fear..."

He pulled the child's wrist onto the broken pane and rubbed it back and forth! I am not sure if even Stephen King could conjure up such an image! Both nightmares set up an atmosphere of dread early in the story and set the scene with just the right feeling of gothic creepiness. So, thank you Emily Bronte, for helping me to understand that dream sequences can serve a useful purpose.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Full Moon

In homage to the full moon...


Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,
With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws and a silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.

by Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

Thank you to a favorite blog...Letters from a Hill Farm.

The Classics and Fanny Hill

When I began writing my book, I encountered a major obstacle. The lack of a classical education. I am fairly well-read, but not in an "organized" way. I have never read the Greek classics except for Homer. I have read most of the Diary of Samuel Pepys, but little Shakespeare. 19th & 20th century English literature is well-represented but there are glaring exceptions. For instance, I have not read the Bronte sisters, but I have seen several versions of the movie, Jane Eyre.

So, I decided to fit the Classics into my reading plan. For years I have owned a small paperback copy of Wuthering Heights. It has languished on the bookshelf, unread, mostly unnoticed. With my new resolve to read the Classics, I pulled it out the other day and laughed out loud. As you can see from the picture, someone (I suspect a male high school student) has written "FANNY HILL" above the title. Wishful thinking on his part, I suppose! But hey, Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure is a Classic too!

More on Wuthering Heights later...

Monday, January 5, 2009


One of my favorite things is the beginning of a road trip. Get up in the dark, make coffee, double check the list, the bite of morning in the air, the little thrill of knowing this day is different. In a way, starting this blog is like starting a road trip. Of course there are obvious differences, but the biggest one, I think, is not knowing the destination. As the heading says, this blog is a place to record random thoughts about writing, reading, books, and the business of books. "Life in general" covers everything else.

This is my first blog, I am writing my first book, I am learning about the business of books. All new beginnings.