Making Things

I love to make things. I make poems and blog posts and stories and prints and broadsides and dinner and sweaters and gardens and friends and granola and yogurt and books and books of boxes, which will soon have poems in them, the boxes that is.

Yesterday I made things all afternoon with Alison, a friend who also loves to make things. And she knows how to sew.  With her help I lengthened  a too-short sweater by attaching the extra of an extra-long scarf to the bottom. Now my favorite sweater falls past my hips, exactly as long as I want it. I made treats for Alison to put in her freezer and she made a skirt out of another too-short sweater I never finished or wore.

While Alison and I were happily making things, David and John made music, playing guitars and singing. John remarked on how much better David has gotten and David answered, “I’ve been practicing and playing like I need to make a living at it.”

I thought, yes, that’s how I write, I put in enough hours to create something I could sell. Given what I write, if I do “sell” a piece it may not bring in much money. It may not bring in any money. But I work to create marketable pieces. It’s extremely unlikely that David will ever play guitar and sing for money, but he wants to be that good. Using the standards of the material exchange economy keeps us working hard, and we have the great good fortune of not having to make the exchange actually happen. The results of our creative focus are free to be gifts.

Have you read The Gift by Louis Hyde? He won a MacArther Grant for it and it was well deserved. Creativity is a basic human instinct and the art that comes from that instinct is a gift. It doesn’t have to be in the market economy to be meaningful. In fact, creativity is even more important given our culture’s focus on money and commodities. We need to create not to earn but to share.

If you want to make art of some sort but don’t think you have permission or the time or a worthy talent or the necessary creativity, read The Gift.

Then make something.


Yes, Sweet Things Happen Too: A Tea Party

You know you live in New Hampshire when you get invited to a tea party to celebrate your elderly neighbor’s house turning 200 years old. At the party the many older women there tell stories about growing up in this town.

“There was the time the horse fell through the floor of the barn. My father tied a rope to his tail and dragged him back up. How else was he going to do it?”

“I would visit Sam at the farm because otherwise I didn’t get to see him and one day I went in to the milking barn. His father and uncle pushed me between two cows and said, ‘Can’t come out til ya get some milk outta that udder.”

“There were only 40 of so students in each class at Coe Brown (the high school) and the boys didn’t know enough to ask a girl to the prom so the teachers had to tell them — ask a girl. They all asked the same girl.”

When you’re asked where you live people know your house by the family that owned it four generations ago.

Everyone goes around the room to say how they know the elderly hostess.  Connections that reach back three generations are discovered — a grandfather’s uncle lived on the farm next to a great-aunt’s mother (or something similar).

One women reads from a card with notes about who owned the house first — a couple who grew up on abutting farms (of course) and had eight children but only five lived to grow up.

There are fewer farms now and lots of people who live in this town are “from away” and the elderly neighbor no longer walks up the hill to collect branches blowing off the old maple trees bordering the ceremony to bring home and use as kindling. She’s too frail now. So her family keeps her house warm and makes tea and scones and fills the house with stories and maybe another 200 years will go by and another circle of women will gather and talk and make connections that radiate out from a center of home.

“Every Day I Have to Figure Out How to Detach Enough

to have a life that isn’t consumed with anxiety and terror.”

“How’s it going,” Jon Lovett asks.

“It’s difficult, man.”

So says Marc Maron in this week’s podcast of Lovett or Leave It. Maron goes on to counsel that you do have to figure it out. Trump thrives on making us mad and scared so when you let the unprecedented unprecedentedness of the terror of his presidency keep you from enjoying the clear blue of a cool autumn day in New Hampshire after spending two days playing with the unspoiled and precocious children of your child, then he’s won. Resistance is enjoyment of simple pleasures and there’s nothing better than a rainy Saturday morning entertaining beautiful children so their parents can have a rare morning of sleeping in together.

I have to say this over and over in order to write blog posts. What difference do my experiences make, as sweet as many of them are? Well, they make a lot of difference to me and then I have energy to at least try to do my fifteen acts of resistance a week (way off that average recently having taken over a month more or less off). And my frequent emails to Mitch McConnell (go here and join in the fun) telling him I’m afraid in a way I have never been as an American (fear is a core motivating message of Republicans so I love being able to honestly use it to oppose McConnell’s unconscionable behavior) are actually renewing.

Life has been good to me recently and horrifically hard for a number of people I love. So all that makes sense is to share the extra generosity of my life. Mortality and change and rain then sun, zinnias and eggplant running into colder weather but no frost yet, bouquets in the house still and all the colored paper clips put away from Ava “working” at my desk this morning.

Ava loves to help put things away and clean up. Emilio has an arm that’s astounding for a six-year-old. Really. We measured our football throws this morning and as I thought he can throw twice as far as me.

I’m ready for the next week.

In It for the Moss

When I was first working on climbing the 48 peaks over 4,000 feet in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, I had many companions. Eric came on most of the hikes, sometimes Adrienne or Sam, and many different groups of friends. But as the hikes got longer and less rewarding (e.g. limited views at the end of a very long trek), Eric was the one who stayed with me.

Our hike to Owl’s Head, a remote peak with a steep scramble up a slide of rocks and no view at the top, 18 miles roundtrip with two tricky water crossings, ended with us walking for miles in the downpours from thunderstorms. By the time we got back to the rivers we’d used water shoes to cross on our way in, we walked through the water in our boots. They were already soaked.

The day we hiked to Mt. Isolation, a 13 mile trip that required a car drop at the end of our trail out, then hitchhiking to our starting point, was so sticky and buggy we kept stopping to puff a cloud of deet around us, hoping to keep the black flies and mosquitos away. The bonus of that hike was the isolation — we had the peak to ourselves.

Mt. Cabot is the northern most of the 4,000 footers, mostly viewless and tricky to climb because of a private property closure on the trail that has the shortest route. Eric and I climbed it on a snowy day in November of 2002, and that was the day Eric first noticed a change in his eye sight. When he looked at his pole he saw a crook that wasn’t there. It was two weeks later that we learned he had a cancerous tumor in his left eye.

Eric was still with me when I completed my list in October of 2003. Then he finished his list on Mt. Madison in March 2005. Our last hike together, in March of 2006, he complained about the pain in his back when he tried to run down Mt. Israel, a small mountain with an excellent view. Two months later he was dead, his liver and bones overrun by cells from that original tumor.

I thought about all of this yesterday as I hiked up to Jennings Peak with David and our friend Anne. The view was excellent, but much of what recommends the hike is the ridge leading to the peak, which is covered with beautiful moss. It’s not a trail to a 4,000 footer, but it was one of the first hikes Eric and I did together, and he was enchanted. Over the next several years, as Eric and I talked to friends and family about my peak bagging quest, he was often asked about his reason for doing all the hikes with me. “I’m in it for the moss,” he’d say, remembering the hike to Jennings Peak, and all the other beautiful mosses we saw over the years.

Yesterday I was in it for the exercise, the companionship with David and Anne, the challenge, the view, the chance to be outdoors most of the day, the magical ridge of moss, and the memories of Eric.

Silver Water

FullSizeRender (4)

Though David and I have been renting a camp on Jenness Pond, a few miles from our house, for over a week now, we’ve only just started staying here at night. There’s been a wonderful assortment of people filling the camp — family, friends, and friends of family, including our children and grandchildren and our children’s friends and their children, lots of little ones from age eight to two. There’s nothing like the noise of children playing in water. There’s nothing like playing in the water with children, no matter what age.

With fewer visitors coming through the camp this week, last night we blew up the air mattress to sleep on the screen porch for the first time, something I’ve been thinking about since we did it last summer. Falling asleep in the night air is such a treat, and not having to set up, then crawl in and out of, a tent to get that sky-just-past-the-mesh feeling, is a highlight of this camp.

Except last night was the coldest yet this summer. Rain all day, wind, and temperatures in the low 50’s, by dinner time we lit a fire, the first time in this house, probably the first time in July. After an evening warming up by the fireplace in the living room, we went out to the porch to go to bed. Layered between two comforters beneath and three above, David in a wool hat and down jacket and me in a hooded sweatshirt, we fell asleep with a cold summer night all over us. What a treat.

This morning David and I sat on the porch couch, a comforter over our laps as we read. A pair of kingfishers spent the morning chitting from the trees along the shore, flying to the post at the end of the dock and the railings of the raft ladder, scanning the water for a meal. At one point a guttural squawk made us both look up. A heron was flying directly towards the porch, then turned and moved along the grasses on the shore.

Late this afternoon the noisiest event on the pond was the flapping and prancing of ducks, lifting themselves out of the water by the dock with a furious slapping of their wings. The sun and clouds traded places and the pond was silver and then black. There was enough sun to warm the air, enough that I probably won’t have to pull up the hood of my sweatshirt when I go to bed.

I’m so lucky.


Snow Party



Since the election I haven’t done much of my usual personal writing, because what does some happy or sad moment from my own life count in the fight to make sure our country stays as just, diverse, safe and equitable as possible?

But there is life beyond resistance to whatever roll-backs of social justice the Trump administration will bring and I need to live that life sometimes. Or perhaps the life beyond resistance is resistance, because living from a place of struggle to make the world a better place requires joy as much as persistence.

Sam was home last week and over one of our predictably competitive Scrabble games we had this exact conversation — the need to balance how life goes on in the face of struggle. How much would my life actually change with Trump as President? Couldn’t I keep enjoying what’s good even if we have a dick for a President?

Melia and Sam’s friend Mike were here too and this lead to a long discussion about what would change, what mattered, what we were afraid of, what was upsetting us the most. Was it a gendered response that Melia and I are more worried about reproductive rights than Sam or Mike? Sam and Mike are most upset by how little people are listening to each other and how ready they are to judge others based on their votes. They both live in states with far more Trump supporters than Melia or I do.

So how is this about joy?

The Scrabble game (I got crushed) and discussion were on Thursday afternoon and that night we got over a foot of snow. A group of Sam’s friends planned to visit and the thickening snow didn’t stop them. Trucks still arrived in the driveway with young men and boxes of beer, one with his Christmas tree ready to burn.

Burn it we did, drinking beer while snow swirled and slid off the solar panels on the barn roof in clumps that thumped and drenched us. We watched flames catch the limbs of the tree and curl up into the needles, hot pine burning yellow then glowing red as the fire moved on to the next branches.

It was an elemental celebration, because this is how it all started, getting through the dark part of the year by gathering with family and friends around light. Most holiday parties are lit by electricity and candles, cheery and warm. We love the sparkle.

But when the light is outside in a snow storm, the knot of of energy created with a circle of faces to the fire and backs to the darkness is tight and strong. Joy. To carry into the new year.

Here I go.


Posthumous Guest Blogger — Peter Menard on 5FU

Screenshot 2016-04-28 07.09.38

I’ve never had a guest blogger, though many of you know I’ve curated my sister Chris’s blog since she died, posting mostly guest blogs.  One of the most popular guests was my good friend Peter Menard, who shared his own journey living with metastatic cancer.

Now, posthumously, Peter gets to be the first guest blogger here.  Peter wrote this in the spring intending it for my blog, but the tragic, untimely death of a much much too young friend made us decide it wasn’t the right time to put it up.

Peter died on August 23 and now it feels like the right time to share this post.  Peter was smart, brave, deeply curious and very funny — as you’ll see.

5FU — by Peter Menard

Are you worried about Zika virus? Lyme disease, mosquitos & ticks?
Want to keep up with your hipster friends on the body-piercing frontier?
Is your weight creeping up on you, even faster than the proverbial 10 lbs. a decade?
Do you have cravings for food that you shouldn’t indulge in?
Lastly, are you worried that you aren’t producing enough mucus to protect your digestive system?

You may want to consider 5FU, a strong medicinal agent developed for some other diseases, but found to have some very interesting side effects.

5FU has been found to kill ticks when they dare to latch onto you. And mosquitoes won’t even light on you, perhaps because they can smell the 5FU, and they want none of it.

Make your hipster friends envious when you flaunt your port, a body piercing that is a direct connection to your own heart.

5FU is a very effective appetite deterrent. You won’t be able to finish any restaurant servings at one sitting. You can live for weeks on doggie bag food. And not to mention the slimming down of your waist line (and your arms and legs too – gets rid of unsightly bulging muscles).

Please note that there are a few quibbling side effects, such as nausea, a lack of a will to live, and a reduced social and work life. Working with your physician, you may be able to effectively ameliorate these side effects.



Ask your doctors if 5FU might be right for you.

For those of you who’d like to know more about Peter, here’s his obituary, written, of course, by him.


Peter Menard (65) of Deerfield unlaced his skates for the last time on Tuesday August 23, 2016. He hopes to skate on the moat around St. Peter’s Pearly Gates when it freezes.

Peter was able to get himself and traveling companions into international incidents in several languages, though he preferred to be lost and confused in Italian, treasuring its penchant to sing.

Peter had the honor to pour libations invoking the ancestors at family weddings, beseeching the ancestors to bless the newly-weds, (and hoping for the ancestors’ welcome when he joins them).

He had great friends from Canton High School in NY, his Canadian brother Lanny from Brown University, West African Peace Corps compatriots, fellow hockey players, Crossfit buddies, and denizens of Deerfield. After marrying 33 years ago, Peter and Anne took a 12-month honeymoon trip around the world, quite an adventure.

Peter’s 5 years in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer/staff fostered his appreciation of small-town life, as well as his trek across the Sahara. He eased back into the States as a commercial fisherman on George’s Bank, then a carpenter for Don Booth in Canterbury, next joining the Deerfield family firm P. K. Lindsay Co. in national sales. His last work was as a real estate agent with his sister at Parade Properties.

Peter’s wife Anne Burnett helped him so much with his cancer; as did sons Michael and wife Carissa, and David. Likewise mother Frances Menard, sisters Anne Menard and Guy, Jeanne and Kevin, Carol and Carl, Cathy and Betsy, Mary and Larry, brother Matthew Menard and Wendy; nephews and nieces Nick, Lindsay, Wes, Cam, and Edie, stalwart Galoots all. Peter thanks extended family and friends for their care.

A service celebrating Peter’s life will take place on Saturday, September 10, at 11:00 a.m. at Deerfield Community Church, UCC, in Deerfield, NH. Afterward, a potluck reception will take place at the church. Continuing in the spirit of Peter’s generosity, you are invited to bring a dish to share.

In lieu of lowers, memorial donations may be made to Schools for Salone, PO Box 25314, Seattle, WA 98165 or Anne Burnett’s run of the Dana Farber half marathon on October 9.



“This is the most unplugged I’ve been for a long time,” David said last night as we drove back to our house from our camp rental on Jenness Pond.  After three weeks of living on the water, mostly sleeping in a corner of the screened porch so that lying in bed at night I could look out on the overhanging maple and oak trees to the night sky beyond, and spending much of every day in the water or looking at the water, I knew just what he meant.

For the last three weeks it’s often been almost unbearably hot out in the world which continued to report the usual bad and distressing news.  On the water it’s been comfortably cool and when it got too hot, I got in the water.  When my periodic checks of the NYTimes website to stay updated on Trump missteps was too distressing I clicked off my phone, put it on the hutch on the porch and went outside.

There were stretches every day when I didn’t know where my phone was and didn’t care. There were days I didn’t open my computer.  There were many meals with many friends and lots of family eaten on the long porch table, watching the sun set over the pond. There was an unending supply of zucchini brought to the camp by visitors.  Emilio learned what a “dip” in the pond before bed is (a skinny one) and learned to jump off the swim raft, plunging deep and popping back up above the water with his eyes wide and blinking every time, as if he was just being born.  That was the big news of the week.

Now I’m on my porch at home, listening to geese chatter as they circle the farm ponds across the street.  There’s a breeze and late light on the horizon, the geese silhouetted as they circle the fields.  Tomorrow instead of waking up to water off the porch it will be the cows in the pasture.  But I may keep trying to lose track of my phone periodically. Unplugging  can be blissful.



As we moved in to summer I started crying, the light letting the sad memories in — how sick Chris was on the 4th of July last year, being in Humarock without Chris and thinking about what it’s like for her widower and sons to have that hole in their traditional family beach time, what it’s like for my parents.  But our family time in Humarock was also sweet, lots of family still gathered in a beautiful spot.

I don’t mind the crying.  It’s been balanced with the joy of having youth around me. Yesterday I sent Adrienne a chat and asked her to snap the kids for me through the day, happy enough just to see Emilio and Ava but knowing there was the bonus of two more children there over the weekend, adorable child video riches.  And I got to share those videos with the youngsters here, Melia and Mackenzie and a crew of their friends, of course not as young as the grandkids but still much younger than me, in lives that are still expanding and reaching out and full of energy and hope.

Not that I don’t reach out still, but more and more I’m content with what I know I love best.  Home, family, close friends, garden, time at my desk to write.  It’s not only me.  This is a researched phenomenon.  As people age, they more and more value time with a closer circle of people and experiences.  We’ve learned what we like and know there’s limited time left to enjoy it.  We get more careful about how to spend our time when there’s less of it to spend.

Being with our kids and grandkids is top of the list, always.  I realized this weekend David and I never mediate when we’re with our kids in spite of being regular mediators otherwise.  We don’t need it.

So my sad weekend was also a great weekend.  I love a full house, the crowd in the kitchen, the meals with multiple palates contributing to the taste, the conversations and laughing at stories, coffee and toast on the deck in morning sun, cocktails and beer on the porch in the evening. Now I have a line full of laundry, flags of the pleasure being with loved ones brings, soaking up the energy of youth

How lucky we are.


Summer Time


Once again, more than a week has slipped by without time to write a blog post.  What have I been doing?  Playing Chutes and Ladders and Match game, and spending a bright, windy day on Governor’s Island, a former army base and now a 173 acre island park just off the southern tip of Manhattan where I watched Emilio scamper over climbing structures and spent only a moment on the long stretch of criss-crossed logs myself and ended up with a splinter in my thumb that throbbed and seeped and shot pain under my nail for a week.

I spent a day with Ava who spent an hour going through my purse, taking out everything and putting it back, mimicking putting on chapstick (“open, open”) and holding up an appointment card and pen (“color, color”) and scribbling and who helped me walk the dog at the end of the day but not until she’d gotten properly set for the walk (baggie, baggie”) which meant hoisting an empty handbag almost as big as her over her shoulder and dragging it along the sidewalk, taking the longest two block walk in the history of dog walking, averaging a step every 30 seconds or so because there was the bag to drop and readjust and neighbors front steps to try and a driveway to run up and flowers in the grass that needed to be touched.

I went on a carousel and roller coaster and spinning cars and bumper cars at Adventureland with Emilio, and we make a good amusement park pair because neither of us like scary or twirling rides.  The ferris wheel was my favorite.  By the time we left I was with batman.


I got to watch Emilio figure out how to cross a line of monkey bars and then experience a 6 1/2 hour car ride from Long Island to New Hampshire with a five year old and one year old in the car (very long).

This weekend we had a full house — family, friends, peonies, strawberries, teaching Emilio how to make whipped cream, swimming, visiting the cows across the street and counting motorcycles everywhere we went because it was motorcycle weekend in NH and we saw 70 in a 5 mile trip to the store and back.

Finally, last night, I stopped being a baby and let Melia take out the splinter that was plaguing my thumb.  Good thing — that 1/2 inch of wood wasn’t going to pop out on its own.

So, this is a very long introduction to a substantive blog post I did write, for the Prevention Innovations Research Center blog.  Given the Orlando massacre and the previous attention to a too-lenient sentence in the Stanford rape case the topic of this blog — child sex offenders ending up on lifetime registries — may seem mild.  But it’s another example of how we need to make sure our intentions line up with our actions.

Onward into summer.