Saturday, October 21, 2017

Potting about

Me with my hair tied back, in the studio,
consulting my lab notes, deciding how to
glaze a cup

Some of you folks may know, I throw pots in my leisure hours.
This is sensei. My teacher in flinging clay.












Writing is a cerebral kind of job, abstract and fancy. Words do what I tell them to. If I don't like what I've got, I make them line up in a different order. Within the limits of my ability, I am all powerful.



Here's one of my recent pots,  a little bowl
with Walnut Spice base and Blue Monday decoration.
Pottery is entirely different. It's physical and intuitive and damned stubborn. I can't talk the walls of a too-thin bowl into standing upright no matter how persuasive I am and how much I know about the origins of the clay and composition of glazes and the shape of Medieval or Roman pots.
Mere thinking, mere knowledge, doesn't help. I am at the mercy of reality.

This is a spread of some of last month's work from the class. The bean pot in the lower right corner is mine.
The art building on the Community College campus
 Go fifty yards in any direction and you're in the middle of a cow field.
Here we got excellent facilities and excellent students.
Writing is hand-wavy and subject to change.
Pottery is solid.
You can see why I like potting,
though I am not so terribly skilled.

Since I produce rather more pots than I can possibly use, I give them away to folks on my mailing list.
(Join by dropping a line to joannabourne@gmail.com )






Tuesday, October 03, 2017


I was eating a kiwi fruit the other day. It showed up coyly snuggled next to a breakfast sandwich sold to me by the delightful ladies who run the catering and breakfast bar at the Rockfish Gap Community Center.

I found myself trying to remember when I’d first seen kiwi. I was young and they showed up in the grocery store one day and my mother, who was a wild woman in her own way, brought them home and figured out how to serve them. They were just mind-bogglingly exotic to me. Furry fruits. I rather distrusted them.


Wench fruit 2
There are many different kinds of kiwi fruits, not just the ones in US supermarkets
Kiwis apparently came from China and were originally called “Chinese gooseberries” as they spread around the world.

The Chinese themselves called them "macaque peaches" but that didn't catch on so much.

The fruit was popularized in the US by WWII servicemen who’d met them while stationed in New Zealand. And they seem to come to the store from California, not New Zealand. Life is a rich pageant of happenstance, isn't it?

“Hmmm,” I hmmed to myself while I was feeding much of my breakfast sandwich to the dog Mandy but eating all the kiwis, “What did my Georgian and Regency heroine encounter as new and exciting fruit as she went about her adventures?” Kiwis and avocados hadn’t arrived in her world. Apples and apricots and even dates were known from Roman times and before.

I thought of two possibles.Albert_Eckhout_-_Bananas _goiaba_e_outras_frutas 

 Bananas. (Did you know bananas are technically a berry. That’s the kind of little fact that’s likely to get you excluded from the company of all right-minded people if you go around pointing it out.)

Bananas spread from southeast Asia to the Middle East and Africa, making everybody happy as they went. The first written trace of their arrival in England was a recorded sale in 1633.

But archeologists found an ancient banana in a Tudor rubbish tip so a few of them were sneaking in even before the Tudors.


A Regency miss might have found one an expensive imported delicacy even in 1798 or 1811. Bananas didn’t get common till after refrigerated transport. Maybe her hero knew somebody who knew somebody in the shipping business.

“You can't teach calculus to a chimpanzee. So just share your banana.” John Rachel


Pineapples.

These would be both familiar and unfamiliar to our Regency heroine.

Wench Still Life with Fruits and Pineapple 1833 - Johan Laurentz
Isn't that a pretty pineapple. There are all kinds of pineapples too.
The plant comes from South America and was spread by Spanish colonialists across the tropical regions of Asia and Africa. The Dutch took it from Surinam to Europe in the Seventeenth Century. Pineapples were ready to catch on, but it wasn’t at all easy to bring them halfway round the world.


So the Europeans grew their own in the cold gray north, being stubborn.

The first European pineapple was successfully reared at Meersburg in 1658. In 1723, a huge "pineapple stove" was built to warm the hot house at the Chelsea Physic Garden. Louis XV was presented with a pineapple grown at Versailles in 1733. Catherine the Great grew them. These were not your everyday cabbages. They were status fruits.

“When life gives you lemons, sell them and buy a pineapple. How to Better Your Life 101.” Davin Turney

Wench 1761 The pineapple at Dunmore Park (l.  photo National Trust)
Yes, it really is the Dunsmore Pineapple
So expensive and snazzy were pineapples in these early years of the Eighteenth Century that they were at first used for display at dinner parties rather than eaten. Like flowers.
Rumor has it the town fruitmongers would snap pineapples up as they came into dock and rent them out for parties . . . till they became questionable even as decoration.

Wench c.1810 Jean Louis Prevost- Still life
But the real fun for the great of the land was in growing them competitively. Hothouses became more and more elaborate as aristocratic gardening rivalry grew. The Earl of Dunsmore built a great hothouse on his estate topped by a stone cupola 14 metres high. They called it the Dunsmore Pineapple. (Earls just wanna have fun.)

By the end of the Eighteenth Century, the pineapple had become a staple of the well-to-do country garden hothouse. The carved pineapples on the Squire's gates promised lavish hospitality at the manor.

August: shift the succession of pineapples into larger pots, in which they are to bear; give but little water to ripening pines, lest the flavour be weakened.
      American Edition of the British Encyclopedia, 1819


Wench c.1685-1710- pineapple on the towers of present St. Paul's Cathedral  London
Pineapples on the towers of St Paul's Cathedral, London
Unless my Regency heroine is a card-carrying member of the haut ton, she might have grown to adulthood having seen the carved stone fruit but never having tasted pineapple.

When she’s served a slice, perhaps cooled on ice, she’d know she was being coddled.

Pineapples, you will be pleased to know, are technically a collection of berries. Yes. Pineapples too. Berries are awesome.


“Be a pineapple: Stand tall, wear a crown, and be sweet on the inside.” Katherine Gaskin

Friday, September 08, 2017

Paisley Shawls -- the History and the Beauty

Joanna here, talking about that fashion accessory of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the shawl.

Why shawls? We wear form-fitted, sleeved outer garments mostly — coats and sweaters and parkas and anoraks and Macintoshes — in the Twenty-first Century and feel pleased and practical doing so. Why did folks spend centuries throwing loose garments around themselves that didn’t button up and had to be draped and fidgeted with in a manner that may strike us as awkward?

I think an ideal of feminine beauty was at the root of it. The drape and swirl of a shawl, the varied possibilities with all their minute adjustments were alluring to the watcher. Displaying the shawl was an art, and this length of silk or wool might well be the most expensive object a woman wore.

So let’s talk paisley, since we’re talking shawls.

Paisley is based on a repeated, teardrop-shaped design pattern called a bota or boteh – a word that means  “shrub” or “cluster of leaves” in Persian.

Wenches star shaped tile from iran 1262
A decorative Persian tile from 1262. The boteh design comes from such roots
 This boteh is an ancient pattern, widespread in rugs, paintings, and tiles. It's an abstract shape that probably comes from the simplification of many sorts of feathers, fruit, flowers and so on in older designs. That is, there's no one origin. It's derived from many complexities that lost detail as they were copied and recopied.

In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries the East India Company imported these Indian designs to Europe where they became immensely popular. Soldiers returning from service in the East brought back lovely, expensive scarves of silk and soft Kashmir (cashmere) wool to their sweethearts and family. The British version of the scarves might cost more than 20 pounds. Sir Walter Scott’s French bride Charlotte Carpentier was given a Kashmir shawl in 1797 for her trousseau that cost 50 guineas, a huge sum in those days.

Königin-Pauline-Württemberg-wearing-a-Kashmir-Paisley-Shawl-by-Joseph-Karl-Stieler-ca.-1825.-She-was-born-a-Württemberg-and-married-a-Württemberg.-She-is-holding-her-son-Karl-who-married-Grand-Princess-Olga.-673x1024
A fine shawl wrapping up mother and child 1825
Period portraits are full of these Kashmiri scarves gracefully swirled round the shoulders of women in flimsy low cut, high-waisted dresses. The survival of generations of scantily clad British beauties doubtless depended on these lengths of wool.

Wench british hand loom wool asilk 1810
British wool and silk paisley shawl showing boteh 1810
Almost as soon as the imported scarves arrived, they were copied enthusiastically by European weavers, among them the craftsmen of the Scottish city of Paisley, so much so that the Persian design ended up named "paisley" after that city in Renfrewshire, Scotland, far, far from the exotic mountains and plains of the East.

The handlooms and, after 1820, Jacquard looms, of the misty north produced quite a good imitation of the original Indian product. But it was  not a perfect likeness. 
Throughout the import period, imported Kashmiri shawls were more expensive and preferred over the British version. The colors were more varied. Even at the height of Scots weaving they were using a mere 15 colors as opposed to the more than 40 colors used in the Eastern imports. The quality of foreign weaving superior, and the fabric itself was lighter. British shawls were made from sheep’s wool. Kashmiri scarves, from softer, more supple, more lustrous goat’s hair. And Kashmiri weavers used the “twill tapestry technique”.

Those of you in the know about weaving technique will recognize that this means the horizontal (weft) threads of the pattern do not run all the way across the fabric but are woven back and forth around the vertical (warp) threads to where the color is needed again. This is the way Europeans weave tapestries. And no, I knew nothing about weaving technique before I looked this up.

Wench paisley asian goat
A typical Kashmiri goat. This one is named Anna
When you’re through trying to figure out what that weaving stuff means you will be asking “Why didn’t the British import Kashmiri sheep and raise their own soft goat hair? They tried in 1818, but didn’t get good hair production. Britain wasn’t cold enough, apparently.

Anyhow, the creamy ecru background of many of the scarves in those Regency portraits is the natural color of goat’s fleece. Also, the finest goat wool, like the finest sheep wool and, for all I know, the finest cat fur, comes from the underbelly of the animals. These are the little factoids that make life so cool and give you something to talk about at parties.
Wench 1802 to 14 a-variety-of-wearing-shawls-in-early-19th-century-france-lithograph-1802-1814-768x658
1802 to 1814 shawls and how to wear them
How popular was the Kashmiri shawl?
Pretty popular, as per:

…a fine cashemire shawl, with brown background, and richly variegated border, is generally thrown over the dress, in which is united both comfort and elegance.
La Belle Assemblé, 1806

…over these is thrown, in elegant drapery, a long Indian shawl of the scarf kind, the colour of the palest Ceylon ruby, the ends enriched by a variegated border…
La Belle Assemblée, 1812

(Though I’m not sure what color a “pale Ceylon ruby” would be.)

After the Regency period, in the age of many petticoats and full crinolines, scarves expanded to accommodate. We get huge scarves in this era.

Wench cashmere shawl with crinoline skirt 1865 -4
Here's a big ole shawl worn over a crinoline in 1865
And here's another example of the difference between imported scarves and British ones. The British-woven scarves might weigh three pounds. The imported Kashmiri shawl of roughly the same size, five to nine ounces.

And eventually, the paisley-patterned scarf went away, as fashions will. Paisley shawls declined in popularity after the 1770s. It's likely the new fashion of bustles meant shawls no longer draped attractively. And block-printed fabrics – ever so much cheaper – became popular. This undermined the exclusivity of the paisley shawl.
So, there you have it. The shawl we all know and love from Historical Romances. How many downtrodden heroines have been sent off to fetch the cranky dowager's shawl and run headlong into the hero?

Now me, I have a fine wool shawl that lives over the back of my favorite chair all winter long. It's from Kashnir, I think, and has genuine botehs on it. When the woodstove heats my front nicely, the shawl covers my back.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Interviews in which I reveal many secrets

I did three interviews recently. 
One at USA Today Happily Ever After ...
with Keira Soleore

and one at All About Romance
with Dabney Grinnan.

And another one with Anne Gracie at Word Wenches. That one's at:

http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2017/08/beauty-like-the-night.html

I talk about the characters in the Spymaster Fictional Universe and what they're up to when they're not appearing in the books.

I say stuff like:

"He (Lazarus) gave up stealing women in 1812 after My Lord and Spymaster. You could say he’s reformed,"

"... as people of the future we know the British won. My characters don’t know that. The possibility of invasion and defeat is very real."

"When my agent went to publishers with Spymaster’s Lady and couldn’t sell it month after month, I’d take the dog for long walks, seeking out lonely, windswept paths around the suburbs, whimpering, “They were right. You can’t sell a story set in France,” and stuff like that there, rather than planning who should be the protagonist of book six."

so, since they are fascinating interviews, do go check them out.

In other news, 
This is not my turtle. This is someone else's rescue turtle.
I keep using wiki images, not having my own
I stopped this morning and picked up a box turtle that was about halfway across the Blue Ridge Parkway. I parked on the grass verge and picked it up. I carried it a mile or so south to a place that seemed better for its longevity.

Smallish box turtle. I don't know if that's the local breed or if it was a young and stupid turtle. No picture because I didn't think of it. I had not yet had my coffee.

My turtle ... shall we name it Helen ... had totally retreated into its shell and was sitting there in the middle of traffic. I dunnoh. Maybe it was trembling in fear. With turtles, it's hard to tell.

If I had cars whizzing past me I would curl up and do the same, but it is not a successful strategy when dealing with cars. This is a nature observation of wide applicability.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

A dog story with, I hope, a happy ending

Very much like me except for the hat
Spent the morning with writer friends, being a good writer, working hard on the WIP. Got more than a thousand, nice, solid, first-draft words laid down. Good for me and back pats.

Boogied out of the cafe in early afternoon, bought groceries, picked up Indian carryout, and headed home in a leisurely manner, pleased with myself and the world because I'd done good work.
Take out food somewhat Like my own

Bout halfway home I looked at the scene ahead. Something was going on. Folks were slowing down. Cars were stopped on both sides of the road.

So I slowed down, came to where the source of the trouble was, pulled over. and stopped.

Ah ... There was a dog in the road, running back and forth across four lanes of traffic, not quite getting killed. Couple of folks were being futile but well-intentioned deploring this. And the dog was very unhappy and scared.

Image may contain: dog
Not the dog, just asimilar dog
So I opened the back door to my car and leaned against it in a relaxed and reassuring manner and called him over. It's all about looking harmless.

Maybe he belonged to a woman. In any case, the dog came, and when I patted the seat and said, "Up," he jumped up, looking relieved, and I closed the door.

I had achieved lost, frightened, huge, many-toothed, put bull. "Yipee," thinks I.

So now I had this dog -- no collar -- in the car. An unhappy & scared dog, but one who would be inclined to trust me since I was making all the right moves. Obviously it was time for me to get in there too, behind the wheel, and concentrate on not smelling frightened.

Hoookay.


I have done this before, actually.
A couple few times.
Because I am not quite bright.

So I headed for my go-to ASPCA which is large and no-kill and one that I know how to get to. I had to drive twenty miles back in exactly the way I had come because karma is a bitch.

The dog took this all fairly calmly and scrunched his way around the front seat and back, walking over bags of groceries with which the car was plentifully supplied -- there go the tomatoes -- and obstructing my sight pretty thoroughly but he didn't bite me which I think was generous of him.


The Charlottesville SPCA
At the Shelter I put a collar and lead on the dog -- I don't carry a dog collar around with me -- and got him out of the car. We walked around the building. Slowly. Unthreateningly. The volunteers seemed reluctant to interact with him, but I figured he'd had plenty of chance to maul me if he wanted to.

Four or five of them, milling about in a pack, took him gingerly at the back door, I wasn't allowed to come into that part of the building so I couldn't see him all the way to his cage,

I will assume the volunteers know what they're doing so I did not call helpful advice after them, though perhaps I should have. Really, one calm person on the leash would have been preferable.

I had Indian food for dinner followed by the egg custard I made yesterday. Then I watched Time Team dig in a field.
A good day, especially if the pit bull's owner comes to find him again, or really -- from the pit bull's view of things -- a good day because he didn't get hit by a car.

He looked kinda like this dog above, but this is not him. I was doghandling instead of taking pictures so I don't have his picture.

Monday, August 07, 2017

A rainy day in the country

A very happy plant
A rainy Monday.

It's one of those days when I don't know whether the rain is helping the farmers out or spoiling the standing hay, so I just send general good will to the plant kingdom and hope they are all as happy as my fuchsia.

Fuchsia is one of those words I never spell right the first time and I don't use it often enough to make a mnemonic for it. (I can spell "mnemonic" though, which is one of life's little ironies, isn't it?)
This is whatit'll look like tomorrow

My writing friend showed up with thoroughly wet hair -- drowned-cat-level wet hair -- and I thought she'd parked the car in Timbuktu, (... took me a while to spell that one,) and run into the safety of the cafe.

She said, No, she'd gone running and taken a shower and that was why she was wet.

I associate with people who get up at dawn and go running in the rain. It is no wonder I feel taken aback in most encounters with real life.

Andrea Pickens, Mary Jo Putney and me
In other news, I m hacking away at the WIP and while I do not have just exactly an order of events, I am getting the character voices settled down which is almost as good and maybe even better.

To the side is a picture of Andrea Pickens, Mary Jo Putney and me at RWA National where we talked about "Why History" and generally enlivened an early morning with our observations.

There is also a picture up top of one of the plants on the back porch of the cabin, picture taken in the bright sun of last month but now enjoying the driving rain.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Anticipating stuff


Me, embracing the chaotic
I don’t like to expect things. If you don’t go about anticipating wonderful things, you don’t get disappointed when they don’t actually happen.  If you accept that the world is inherently chaotic and slipshod, you can just shrug and say something fatalistic in the face of disaster and get on with the work of trying to fix stuff, which is one’s purpose in the world, or at least mine.


But today I am foolishly anticipating and hoping air conditioning will come to my little house in the hills next Tuesday. My fingers are crossed. Inside, I am wriggling like a happy puppy.

If we take "happy puppy" in a metaphoric sense.

Right now, in Real Life  — (the whole Real Life thing is much over-rated,) — it is still early morning, but the temperature in the house is edging up toward 90°. The relative humidity is that of two feet under the surface of the swimming pool at the Y.

Me, being warm


privileged cat
My cat is as unhappy as it is possible for a well-fed, well-brushed, pampered cat to be, which is to say pretty durned sullenly displeased, like Queen Victoria when some battle in the Sudan is not going well.



My dog (I gotta say my dog  is very similar to me in temperament, except she is unfailingly brave and honest and also regularly tries to disembowel the UPS man, none of which three character traits I share) — endures, looking more and more unhappy as the summer progresses.



My computer simply refuses to work at 90°. Wise computer.



The nice people at the plumbing company have promised me air conditioning — (Why, you will ask is the plumbing company involved in this. I can only reply, “Small town.” This is a comment of wide applicability.) — for the last six weeks or so. 



In roughly 117 hours and six minutes the nice men from plumbing will show up in their white truck; the cat will vanish to some alternate Scandinavian dimension under the IKEA couch; the dog will abase herself adoring before the workmen as is her custom; and I will drink tea and try to make intelligent comments; the workmen save the stupidest of these to delight one another in the truck going home.



At some point, Tuesday? Wednesday? Thursday? one of these nice men will flip a switch and I will be cool. And dehumidified. My cat, dog, self and computer will be sooo happy.



Anyhow, that’s what I’m anticipating.


Friday, July 07, 2017

Bread pic 1WLA_lacma_Clara_Peeters_still_lifeThey call bread the staff of life, using staff in the sense of “a long stick used as a support when walking or climbing or as a weapon”, which is to say, metaphorically, since even the most warlike among us seldom take up baguettes and plunge into battle. What we mean when we talk about bread this way is that it supports us and keeps us alive.
This was true all through the historical period in which I interest myself – the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Bread provided most of the calories of the average person’s diet. Maybe 60%. (This was in the days when most folks were trying to scrape together enough calories to keep themselves alive, not trying to avoid them.) Beer – bread’s funtime cousin – contributed another 20% of calories. That’s 80 % of what folks lived on. Bread and beer were fueling the European working man.
Table bread
click on this for a closer look









They didn’t necessarily know they were getting their protein from bread, because getting protein in the diet does not seem to have been a high priority, as per this handy table which may be taken as more or less representative.
From this you will see that your average bloke in 1750 Strasbourg (this was a table easy to find if not totally relevant to 1800 London, but I’m talking Big Picture here) was spending 20% of his income on beer and getting only a teensy bit of his yearly protein. Put another way, the fellow was spending as much on beer as on soap, linen, candles, lamp oil, and fuel combined. He doubtless found this worthwhile.
Bread pic 2 czanneBread was almost sacred. The custom I’ve seen of making a cross on a loaf of bread before slicing it would have been widespread a century or two back. In church, bread was the body of Christ and a sacrament. You didn’t mess around with bread.
Beer didn’t have quite that cachet, but it was still pretty cool.
Bread 2
click on this for a closer look










Bread was cheap protein too. Lookit this nifty comparison of the cost of protein in silver. Bread and beans were king. Half the price of meat when it came to providing protein.

I admit I’m surprised to see the relative expense of eggs as a source of protein. We think of eggs as cheap protein nowadays.
Cheese which is so expensive on that chart I keep thinking it must be some kinda typo. When we think of a farm wife as in charge of the eggs and cheese economy of the house, this certainly implies she was running a profitable little business of her own.

More hot rolls
typical bread chez jo



But there it is, laid out in very general terms. Up to modern times European folks were bread and bean eaters. We’ve left this behind in a lot of ways. Bread is no longer the center of people’s diets. (Though I remember my father always wanted to have bread on the table, even if it was cornbread, often as not.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Small Town Fourths

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I am surrounded by small town Fourths of July ... (Fourth of Julys?) By parades, fireworks, heat and holiday America.

In my closest little town, along with the taco trucks and BBQ, we got jello-mold-and-potato-chip family picnics. We got gatherings of convivial folding canvas chairs with drink holders, the drink holders being occupied by beer cans or red plastic cups of Mountain Dew.

The police force is out, crisscrossing the crowd in an earnest way. Midsized kids run around yelling. Every once in a while, in the middle distance, somebody sets off a firecracker.

There are flags. Flags on street poles of the parade route. People carrying flags. People wearing them. Flags on cars.

The other nearby town, next town over, used to be a whistle stop on the railway. It is become somewhat a suburb for the closest tiny city. Here, twenties and thirties folks sit in the same canvas chairs. There are fewer kids in the crowd, all of them dressed in natural fibers. Dogs wearing red kerchiefs round the neck, meet and greet friends from the dog park and are decorous.

Folks take out fresh peaches and sandwiches made with whole meal bread and thermoses of kombucha. Some of the men doff their shirts to bask in the sun. 

I don’t watch the fireworks in either town. At dark I go out to my back porch and sit on one of my Adirondack chairs – made of the finest plastic – and look down the valley where folks are putting on their own fireworks displays.

In the past these have been small affairs. I can see – oh – a dozen of them. Little, bright shows that must be set off in some farmer’s field.  They’ll let off twenty or so, and then further up the valley somebody else will take it up.
 
I imagine everybody knows who’s doing what. I like to think of the teenage boy of the family running out to light a fuse and getting out of the way fast.
“That’ll show ‘em,” Mom says in satisfaction. “A retrocentral flower spray. Better than the Joneses had last year.”
“Yup,” says Dad.

This year, right below me, something rather more was going on. Big complex fireworks. Professional stuff. It probably lasted close to an hour. And I could hear a crowd ooohing and aaahing.

I’ll have to ask at the Post Office who put that one on. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Visitors to the cabin


I'd been hearing this kinda fluttery banging for a bit, while I went type type type type and ignored it.

"What's that?" I thinks, not paying much attention to myself which is always a mistake.

And then a bird comes flying across the room which catches my wandering attention.

Being the brilliant person I am and skilled in the ways of the wild, (just call me Hawkeye,) I say "Durn it. A bird's got in," and schlep over to where the bird is battering itself against the window going flap flap flap in a frantic way and doing itself no good.

I stand for a moment mulling over stuff like "How do I get the window open without hurting the bird or scaring it off to go bang itself against other places" and "What kind of bird is that?"

I'm easing the window open when the dog trots up and grabs the bird and makes for the door. Which is open.

Very smooth move. Fast as the dickens that dog.

"Now I'll have to chase the dog down and take the bird away from it and I'll probably kill the bird in the process if the dog hasn't already," thinks I to myself, looking for my shoes.

Then back comes the dog. immediately, looking nonchalant. I mean, it was fifty seconds round trip. So either the dog dropped the bird, dead, somewhere in the immediate vicinity, or the dog dropped it not-yet-but-inevitably-soon-to-be-dead, or the bird got away or the dog let it go.

Mandy-the-dog has a good bit of hound in the general mix. Who knows what atavistic instincts rose up in her.
The dog was being soft-mouthed to the bird, it had seemed to me. I will hope for the best, bird-wise.

"Why do you do this to me?" I says to Mandy.

Then the other bird that had been flying around the house banged against a different window and brought itself to my attention. This was a two-bird incident, I realized. They come not as single scouts today.

This time I was not befuddled by having my mind in 1730s Paris and I reacted more quickly.

"Oh no, you don't," I said to the cat and lifted her bodily from my desk.

Desperate flapping continued against the window over my desk. This was a male goldfinch. Okay.
I went to the kitchen, took one of my kitchen towels from over the sink, softly softly catchee goldfinch went I, and chucked it out the door.

We are mostly winning in the catching birds sweepstakes today. I feel good, taking it all in all, though I am puzzled by two birds simultaneously deciding to try their luck indoors. It is not as if I get birds flapping around in here as an everyday event.

But anyway, do not assume that my life is dull just because I am living in the middle of all these trees. Lots of stuff

goes on here. Lots.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Getting Stuff Done and Not Done




Most of staying sane in the freelance writing world is doing what you can
get done, rejoicing in that, and jettisoning the rest with a minimum of regret.


So I'm sitting here in my comfy chair at 5 in the morning,
clean,

hair washed,
well-fed,
wearing soft, loose, comfortable clothes,
exercised up as of yesterday,
with a pair of lidded pots drying on the shelf at my potmaking class at the community college,
my herbs getting watered by a sporadic, sweet rain,
me watching the dawn,
with a working computer,
wild birds fed,
the dog and cat sleeping in their chosen perches,
all of us listening to French torch songs of the 20s,
and me formatting this Indie novella for publication.



I am fortunate beyond my deserts.
I don't get everything done, but I get the big things right.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More on the writing life ... and dogs

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I want to let Mandy-the-Dog free to run about the woodland a-chasing of the deer
(hums, “My heart’s in the Highlands. My heart isn’t here.” )
and otherwise amusing herself when I go down into the valley to the coffeeshop where there is air conditioning and, well, coffee.

But if I leave the door open so she can get in and out, Mandy hears me start the car and takes off, even if she has been given a big plate of chopped chicken breast and should be wholly immersed in that. Mandy comes bounding after me with admirable speed and follows me all the way down hill, about a quarter mile and a bit, to the mailbox.

Bound, bound, bound goes Mandy, chasing after me.

I stop at the mailbox and put my head on the steering wheel and am pretty sure Jane Austen never had this problem.

Mandy will not get into the car with me. She has been there and done that and knows I am going
to drive her back and lock her up in the house. No fool, Mandy.

So I turn around at the mailbox and drive back to the cabin.

Bound, bound, bound goes Mandy, but this time uphill.

I lure her inside with tiny bitty dog treats which I hide among the sofa cushions and under the edge of the rug. She will find them, or I will, eventually. Thus I demonstrate the triumph of human cunning that has kept us one jump ahead of the canine community all these years.

I close the door behind me and drive off in the direction of coffee.

I need hardly say that the cat takes no part in this drama, demonstrating the feline cunning that has kept cats one jump ahead of both the human and the canine community all these years.