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Raking stones is like mowing the lawn or cleaning bathrooms. When you are done, you can see that you've achieved something. The snow plow keeps us from being marooned, and we are grateful. But it also flicks thousands of stones from the driveway onto the lawn and when the snowbanks finally melt, there they are. Little monsters that must be moved with a rake or the lawnmower will be going cling, cling, clank all the way to the road. So the raking begins. If it has a nice side, besides looking at the cleared lawn just up the hill, it's that the air finally has more than a touch of spring in it, the daffodil shoots are poking through leaf cover,  Read More 
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It was a pewter sky. Not plain, but ranging from the silvery, high-polish pewter of our Cape Cod-made salad bowl to the older, dull finish on my mother's teapot. It was sunset, with a patch or two of silver sky open in the midst of the pewter shades. Even the tree branches were pewter their usual November to March blackness softened by a layer of sticky snow that lost its whiteness in the sunset time. It was artist's light, photographer's light. But I was just there, admiring the breathtaking scene and waiting for the dog to find that exact perfect spot where he would deign to pee. Read More 
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March on the march

It's the capricious month. March Madness may mean basketball to thousands of people, but it works for just about everything else this month, too. The clock jumps, for instance, and the body clock -- albeit invisibly -- takes a day or two to move into the change. The weather jumps even more. Blizzard or mud are the extreme choices with a bet on plenty of ice in between. The dog prances along, caring not for falling water, puddles under his feet or dirty paws. If it's white stuff, he leaps into the air with March madness to catch snowflakes -- and succeeds. If it's cold, it's chilly damp; if it snows, the stuff is heavy, wet and perfect for snowmen; if it's a bit warmer and seems colder, it's time to look at the 40 degrees, feels like 30 part of the weather report.

On the plus side, if the  Read More 
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Liking and disliking

You can "like" or "unlike" anything on Facebook, including pictures of yourself and political comments that either delight or disgust you. But most of the time, you don't get a chance to say what you really like or dislike. Those things just aren't among the choices. It occurred to me today when the sun really came out, instead of floating like a ghost behind the gloomy March sky, that making a list of likes (or dislikes) on a sort of impulse basis (no deep thoughts here) would be fun. Add-ons permitted at any time. Discards, too. So here's a start: and the add-ons, as of 3/10/2013, have begun! Just tucked them in there ....

Robert Frost, new snow, cooking with grandchildren, writing, being in bed, Maya Angelou, cooking, walking the dog, reading novels, reading news, reading biographies, reading most anything, reading in bed, talking to Charlotte, kissing my husband on the back of the neck when he's dozing at the computer, making soup, pulling weeds, planting seeds and plants, eating, eating she-crab soup, playing word games with offspring, from Bananagrams to Words with Friends, hitting the road, driving the car, bird songs, E. J. Dionne, blueberries, my computer, knitting ...

Ice (not man-made), putts that miss by a quarter inch, running blood especially if it's mine,  Read More 
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Waiting for Sandy

Waiting for Sandy is much like waiting for Godot -- except Sandy is really coming. So we cook chicken in the morning, knowing we can eat it cold if the power goes out, and we take the dog out an extra time in hopes he'll not want to go when the trees are bending over.

But lunchtime comes and goes, and it's just rainy and breezy. On the coast of Connecticut, two of our offspring and their families are evacuating their houses, the one only minutes before the sea washes over the small stone bridge that is their exit, the other to a residential inn because the high school shelter looked jammed and impossible, especially with the high-strung Jada dog. She's welcome at the inn, and they're thrilled with a kitchen and two bedrooms and the location near the aquarium -- which means the unpredictable power company will be more predictable than on their home street.

The New York state kid is ensconced with child and husband in a ? Read More 
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Publisher folds

Today my historical novels come home, however many were unsold when my publisher s closed his doors this summer. It will seem strange to have all those friends of mine here in such quantity, but they are quite welcome. I know them well -- Rose herself and her mother, Silas Hibbard who turned to drink in his grief, young Charles who listens at keyholes and under windowsills, Abby who worries about everyone being happy. And then there's Miss Harty, the best of teachers in the close-mouthed New England of the late 19th century. She was named for the first grade teacher who saved me from boredom when I started school in Amherst, Massachusetts. And Aunt Nell, who breaches custom and gives her brother-in-law a piece of her mind when he needs it. And so many others, including the charming Newton Barnes who sits behind Rose in school and can't stop thinking about her.

Naturally I would rather not hang onto all of these books forever, so we'll be selling them from here from now on.

Salesmen we are not. Milt's even worse at it than I am -- so much so that whenever we ran a classified ad for something we no longer wanted (like a sailboat), we didn't let him near the customers. He was forever talking them out of buying.

I won't do that. I will recommend both books for good reading,  Read More 
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as others see us

Writers so often work in a vacuum. Until an agent or a friend, a publisher or a reader, say something, there's no sense of sense or nonsense. Self-confidence, at least in this corner, tends to shrink as the work grows and the days stretch out without any outside comment. And then, sometimes, the view  Read More 
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Why write?

It's really like people who do jigsaw puzzles. They bend over the table putting the pieces
together in an order that creates a picture. They tend to be quite intense about it, and
they find it hard to walk past the table without finding and putting in another piece.

Writers do that. They put words together in an order that makes sense, at least to them.
They create a picture with the words. They certainly can be terribly intense, and if
the writing is going well, they keep going back to the computer (or the big yellow
legal pad if they're the longhand kind of writers) and having another look, often
unable to resist the temptation to sit down and keep going.

The big difference between the puzzlers and the writers is that it's quickly apparent
whether the puzzle has been done correctly or not. Some writers may be so confident
of their abilities that they, too, know what they've done is on target. But many
more are unsure -- they tend to poke at the words, change some, fret, look for
reassurance from a reader they trust.

They can also feel dissatisfied, almost as if the work is not quite finished. It's
the way a jigsaw fanatic feels when there's a piece missing, and it's time to
kneel on the rug and search carefully. Writers hope not to have missing pieces,
but they instinctively know when something's not there -- and it can be tough
to search the book and the brain and figure out what the missing link is. Read More 
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My sister and I spent eight days, 24/7, together recently and discovered we could actually do
that. When we were much younger and she six years younger than I, she was such a pest.
I remember protesting to our mother about one thing after another, and the answer was always
the same: "She's going through a stage." One day, in desperation, I answered back: "But she's
always going through a stage."

Her present stage is quite wonderful -- organizing a sort of book tour in Washington and Oregon
for me and driving me around some of her favorite places in the region that has been her home for
more than 40 years. We rolled through mountains in Washington, yellow aspen leaves brilliant
against the dark Douglas firs, and emerged into the wheat, hay and hop fields of eastern
Oregon where the country rolls and rolls under an enormous sky, the golden fields punctuated
occasionally by precise rows of staked grape vines. The clouds seem far away here, the rivers
large, the houses scarce.
In small towns, main streets seemed busy, and we visited one independent book store after
another, giving them a copy of the new book, "Rose," and having a chat about what we were
doing. We weren't expected, but the welcomes were warm and in one store, the Book Stop in
Hood River, Oregon, the man behind the counter pointed to my name on the book and said,
"Is this you?" I answered,"Yes." His finger moved to the line that said "A sequel to
"Sarah's Daughter," and he stunned me. "Two of my daughters readyour book," he said.
Hood River is now on the map for me. Read More 
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off the walls and on again

We've repainted a room, or, rather, we hired an expert to do it. Amateurs
removed an amazing number of objects prior to the redecorating --they pretty
much cluttered up two other rooms. Now it's time to put things back. But not
the same way. We're moving pictures around. Every time we get a new
 Read More 
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