Saturday, October 31, 2009

Love, Literary Theory, and Other Things That Go Bump in the Night

Buy this T-shirt from the Edward Gorey House 

Nineteen years ago today I met the man I would marry.  Yep.  We met on Halloween.  We were in college, but we didn't meet at a Halloween party or at a bar; neither of us was in costume, and we were both completely sober (amazingly).  Actually, we met on a bench outside a classroom building before a three-hour evening class on literary theory.  We were both English majors, and since the beginning of the term I had harbored a secret crush on him from afar.  Well, not that far actually, since we had mutual friends and we sat one row away from each other in this very intense upper-level seminar of about a dozen students.

It was already dark outside and the cold crept into my bones through my thin cotton jacket.  I was heading to class early to finish up my reading before the lecture began, and, as usual, I was kicking myself for not finishing on time.  It was useless to try to cram in twenty pages of Martin Heidegger or Jacques Derrida at the last minute.  They were hard enough to comprehend when I had hours of time and a full pot of coffee brewing.  To make matters worse, I'd had nothing to eat all afternoon but a carrot and a bit of hummus.  My stomach grumbled bitterly as I hunched into the frosty evening air, my shoulder aching from the weight of a messenger bag stuffed with the usual English major's assortment of used Penguin classics and Norton anthologies.  Through my fog of self-pity laced with self-loathing, I suddenly thought I heard someone call my name.  I glanced around, but nearsighted girl that I was, I saw no one, so I reached to open the front door.  As I began to step inside, I heard it again, this time louder.  I spun around, and there he was, smiling at me like a cheshire cat seated on a low brick wall: the boy I'd been watching, the one with the black leather jacket and the scar that ran down the length of his right cheek; the one who wrote with a fountain pen and who spoke in what sounded like perfectly constructed sentences whenever our professor called on him in class; the one whom I'd often seen sitting alone in the cafeteria, reading Samuel Beckett or Alain Robbe-Grillet.  He was calling to me.  He knew my name.

I walked over to him, and as soon as he said hello, all my worries about class melted away beneath the glow of the streetlamp that arched over us.  He invited me to sit with him.  I don't remember any small talk.  It seems to me we dove headfirst into talking about books and life and all the best stuff that very night, and we've never stopped since.  It really was love at first--well, if not sight then words.  I knew that night what I know now: nothing makes my heart beat faster than a man who reads.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Inspiration: Eric MacDicken

When I was a freshman in college I knew this guy who was always drawing pictures.  In the dining hall, at the library, during class, or hanging out in the dorm, he was the kid with the ink pen, the quick wit, and the vivid imagination who could draw anything.  He was also one of my best friends.  Now, two decades later, Eric MacDicken is still my pal, and he's one of the people in my life who inspires me most.  He is an award-winning illustrator and graphic designer with his own company, EMacDesign , and his talent never ceases to amaze me.  I am especially fond of his kid-themed work, so since October is Eric's favorite time of year, I couldn't resist showing you a couple of his magical Halloween pieces.

I hope, my blogging friends, that your Halloween is both scary and safe.  I hope you have your favorite candy (peanut butter cups for me, please), and I hope your costume wins first prize at the masquerade.  Todd and I have been told that Halloween festivities here on the island are not to be missed, so I'm sure I'll have a spooky tale or two to tell after this weekend!  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Whimsy, Beauty, and Friendship

My last post was about hope.  This one is about what to hold onto when hope is nowhere to be found.  It's an important act, holding on.  There are moments when it would be easier to despair, but in the face of those moments, I look to poems or brownies or Moonstruck or whatever it takes.  Sometimes a smile from a stranger can be enough to carry me from one moment to the next.  Sometimes a pink bicycle will do it.  This post is for anyone who needs to hold on right now.  I'm right here with you.  I'll stand up and pedal.  You can ride on the seat, just like when we were kids.

A few things that made me smile or brought me joy this week:  a tenacious October rose;

a gold-leafed pig in the window at Abacus ;

a stained- and found-glass butterfly in a window made by Laura Fuller ;

a butterfly among the last of the wildflowers on the shore of the island;

a silvered pumpkin on the doorstep at Willa Wirth ;

a box of treasures from my friend Marlowe, including loads of vintage goodies, crafting supplies, and the sweetest pair of fingerless gloves made by her mum.  As lovely Christina would say, "bliss."

Special thanks to Tracy for her inspiring post.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Hope is like a road in the country; 
there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, 
the road comes into existence.
~Lin Yutang

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paper Straws & Baker's Twine

Who could resist such a greeting?

As you could probably gather from my last post or two, autumn makes me nostalgic.  I crave mulled cider, leaf piles, bonfires, and my memere's molasses cookies.  I devour long novels on chilly nights, and my crafting supplies start taking over every available horizontal space in the house.  I lose nearly all self control in Michael's craft stores, and what little ability I had to say no to a rubber stamp or a pretty box of stationery flies out the window when I enter an indie paper store.   I have several favorites, but one of the best I've found is Rock Paper Scissors in Wiscasset, Maine.

Todd and I spent a couple of hours in Wiscasset earlier this week, most of it in Rock Paper Scissors and its sister housewares store, Smitten.  We found Christmas and baby gifts, plus a few treats for ourselves. I had to drag him away from the pens (yes, we have a slight fountain pen addiction in our house) or we would have been there all afternoon.

One of my favorite finds was a spool of red and white twine just like the kind bakers use to tie up boxes of pastries.  My favorite Italian bakery, Mike's Pastry in Boston's North End, uses blue and white twine, and I always love that reassuring tug on my fingers as I slip them under the knot and carry a box of Florentine cannoli down Hanover Street.  Talk about nostalgia!  And, yes, for me nostalgia involves food nine times out of ten.

Another great find was this box of paper drinking straws.  I've written before about my favorite childhood treat: coffee ice cream from Hallett's Drugstore on Front Street in my hometown.  Sometimes we'd go to Hallett's just for a soda, and I loved lifting the lid of the tall glass dispenser to slide out one of these pretty paper straws.

So, yes, I wax nostalgic when the weather grows chilly.  I tend to light more candles as days grow shorter, pull on my wool socks, and make pot after pot of tea.  Too bad I can't drink hot tea with a paper straw!  Actually, I think I'm going to use the straws for a crafting project. (That's a hint for you, Miss Marlowe.  Maybe you should bring a few crafting supplies when you come to visit this weekend!)

Thinking of all you sweet blogging friends tonight!  Hope you are well.  xo

Monday, October 19, 2009

Our Secret

Photo by Dana Graves 

I love Marcus ??

That's what is printed in round, girlish letters on the top of the built-in dresser in the guest room here at the cottage we're renting this fall.  The tiny room with its sloped ceiling used to be the bedroom of a young girl who is now a teenager and whose parents sold this wee cottage to move to a bigger house across the island.  The signs of her childhood, though, are still imprinted upon the room: the pencil slashes on the door jamb, marked with months and years to measure her growth; the caterpillar coat rack bolted to the wall; and little bits and pieces of graffiti that the cottage's new owners have not yet covered up with a fresh coat of paint.  I hope they never do.  On the ceiling's slope above the bed is a tiny pink heart, and, of course, there are those words on the dresser.  She loved Marcus.  And then she didn't.  And then, as it goes in life, she wasn't sure whom she loved.  

When I was a girl, around the age of what is now called a tween, I used to write the name of my current crush on the wall inside my closet: I love Bryan George Jeff Bryan David Joey Bryan.  Four facts about me can be deduced from this habit: 
  1. I was fickle.  Yes, I loved a lot of boys.
  2. I really, really loved Bryan.
  3. I felt a strong need to write down what I was feeling.  It wasn't enough to just feel the emotion.  Writing it down made it seem more real, more powerful to me.
  4. I didn't particularly want other people to see what I had written--at least not about those feelings. I loved to write as a kid and I liked people to read what I wrote, but this was different.  This was magic, secret, special, as visceral as painting on cave walls.  There was a bit of witchcraft to it, almost like casting a spell.
Much has changed since those days.  I'm no longer quite so fickle; I've had a crush on the same boy for nearly two decades.  I no longer love Bryan.  I also no longer write things in my closet.  I do, though, believe in the power of written words to conjure up truths about ourselves and our lives.  When I first saw those words the girl had written on her dresser, I felt a deep kinship with her.  My own heart ached thinking Marcus had broken her heart or she had broken his, and then she was left with that empty unknown feeling that hurts, but is also rich with possibility.  Her words were secret, hers, and yet now they were mine, too.  

Each time I pass by the dresser, I always glance at those words.  They remind me of why I write poetry.  With each poem I write I give a secret piece of myself to the page.  At first, like those words in the closet, it is mine alone, but eventually it belongs to anyone who chooses to read it.  It is our secret.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde!

Lucky me, I share my birthday with Oscar Wilde, who turns 155 today.  While I am slightly younger, I wish there were some magical way I could have met him. When I am asked the famous question about the three people with whom I would most like to share dinner, Oscar Wilde is always at the very top of my list.  

"Thirty-five is a very attractive age; 
London society is full of women who have of their own free choice 
remained thirty-five for years."
~Oscar Wilde

Happy weekend, my friends!  Thanks so much for visiting this week.

P.S.  MFK Fisher is second on my dinner list.  The third choice changes depending on my mood.  Today it would be Charlotte Bronte.  Now that would be a birthday dinner to remember.  Think I could get Mary Frances to cook for us?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Inspirations: Andrew Wyeth & Mary Oliver

For this, my final in the series of "inspiration" posts (at least for a little while), I thought I'd include two of my favorite artists: Andrew Wyeth and Mary Oliver. Wyeth, who painted some of his greatest works (including "Christina's World") in Cushing, Maine, died this past winter.  He completed the painting below when he was in his eighties.  Its golden glow comes from four ounces of pure gold he mixed into a wash and brushed over the surface of the painting when it was finished. Oliver lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she writes achingly beautiful poetry and prose.  If you ever need a good bedside read, pick up a copy of her New & Selected Poems or, for prose, her Blue Pastures.       

Andrew Wyeth, "Long Limb" (1999)

Song for Autumn

In the deep fall
    don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
    the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
    freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
    warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
    inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
    the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
    vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
    its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
    the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

Mary Oliver, New & Selected Poems

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Inspiration: Halloween

I love Halloween--just love it.  Below are a few of the spooky treats that are making me feel especially witchy, wicked, and wild this year:

Fondant Pumpkin on a Cupcake 

Acorn Sideshow Girl Necklace 

Hallowe'en Haunted House

Cool Little Clay Pumpkin from Pumpkin Hollow

Gorgeous Papier Mache Sculptures from Johanna Parker Design

Powerful Potions from Arana Muerta

Free Downloadable Toe Tag Invitations 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Inspiration: Nieces & Nephews

All six of our nieces and nephews came to visit this past weekend.  Two of the boys are my sister's kids; the other boy and the three girls are Todd's sister's kids.  This was the first time they'd ever met.  I think it took all of ten seconds for them to become fast friends, playing football, tearing lobsters apart with their bare hands, toasting s'mores, and playing Apple to Apple.  

A strange thing happens when the house fills with kids.  I time travel back to the best moments of my own childhood, of course, but I also find myself very much in the moment, soaking up every bad knock-knock joke, fake burp, and curious question.  Sunrise is sweet when shared with a little girl who tells me to "look at all the pink."    

Monday, October 12, 2009

Inspiration: October

Jack Kerouac wrote in On the Road that "Everybody goes home in October."  Here in New England, where he grew up, this is certainly true.  The sudden turn to chill calls us back to the hearth, to warm blankets, and late-night toast with cinnamon.  The shift in temperature here on the island has coaxed out all my nesting instincts.  Here are some images that I'm dreaming about this week.

I don't recall where I found this!  
If it's yours, please let me know so I can credit you!  It's beautiful.

From Toast

From Toast 

Sari quilts from Sundance 

We had a most delicious weekend with all of our nieces and nephews here at the cottage.  Today, though, I am feeling a bit under the weather, so I'll hold off on sharing more about that until I have a little energy.

A big thank you to Carole at Maynard Greenhouse for mentioning The Magpie's Fancy in a recent post and to Dustjacket Attic for giving me a "Spread the Award" award.  You girls are the best.