Three If by River


You all know by now how much I love interesting changes in perspective.

I was in West Virginia this week for the day job, specifically the capitol, Charleston. It’s really a lovely little city, with the Kanawha River flowing at its feet. I’m told “Kanawha” is pronounced “Kanaaaaahhhh.” I suspect it helps to have a southern accent. At any rate, I love cities on big rivers. I grew up in the Rocky Mountain West where we just don’t *do* big rivers. Cricks and washes, yes; waterways capable of bearing traffic, oh no no no.

See, that’s the cool thing. The capitol building in West Virginia seems like it’s facing the wrong direction. It’s kind of away from downtown and it sits sideways to the big thoroughfare next to it. Kanawaha Blvd runs in front of it, but that’s not the main route to downtown from the interstate by any stretch. But if you walk along the riverfront pathway – which is a lovely walk – you can see it. The building faces the river. Steps and an esplanade run right down to the river and the building rises above it, greeting guests who’ve arrived by boat, not by automobile.

I recognize this because I went through an obsession a phase where I visited plantation homes. Many of those show their best faces to the river, because that’s how people arrived. Before everything became about the car.

I’ve been toying with post-apocalyptic scenarios. Especially since people keep bugging me that Feeding the Vampire is too short. It would be interesting to write about a string of communities that return to traveling and trading by the river that joins them, walling themselves off to all other avenues of entry. Everything would become about controlling and protecting the river.

Fun to think about.

The Tao of Hummingbirds

This pic is from the same series of watercolor rain shots I posted before. This photo isn’t framed as well, but I love it for the hummingbird zooming in on the middle right, like a guided missile. (um, left to you folks)

We have about four hummingbirds in residence right now and they are practically part of our household. Every morning I wake to the sound of them whizzing past the open windows, squeaking at each other. They dive around the feeders under the front portal (pronounced pohr-TAL, for you non-New Mexico types), bulleting through at impossible speeds. Their game is intricate – one perches near a feeder and waits for another to come in, then dive bombs the interloper. They scream off over the desert, quickly becoming pinpoints against the sky, while another leisurely bobs in to have a drink. The other day I saw one, perched on the saucer of this feeder, wait while another screamed in at him, at a zillion miles an hour, then popped up, letting the other bird pass right underneath him. Hummingbird Tai Chi.

It’s funny to me to observe their busyness and compare it to my own. The emails screaming in, one after another. The phone calls and conference calls, an intricate dance of back and forth. And while you’re busy dealing, someone else slips in and takes a long drink of your nectar.

So it goes, eh?

I told David this morning that today looked pretty hairy for me and we talked about why. Then he said, “why do jobs have to be that way?”

It’s a good question. I suppose we should seek the Tao and be One with the universe. Then the politics, the pressures and deadlines wouldn’t matter.

I don’t know anyone who can do that.

What I do see is that the hummingbirds seem to glory in their games. They are beautifully vital, vibrantly alive. They make me laugh, to see them whizzing past.

I love that.

Alpha and Omega

I’m back from Oklahoma City today and, as always after one of my work trips, playing catch up.

It can be shocking, transitioning between my various lives. At home, it’s quiet. I like it that way. Sometimes I don’t interact with anyone else for hours on end. This level of concentration is meditative for me. I feel most at peace when I can do this.

I know. I know. My mother despairs of me.

On the work trip, I uproot myself from my lovely home, plunge into the semi-hysterical swirl of airports, luggage and rental cars. I meet up with my colleagues and work in a room where seven people are asking me questions at the same time. Or they say, “okay, after you answer those three people, I get you next.”

It’s good to be needed. (And paid!) But I get overwhelmed. I try not to get cranky.

(But – guys? – just because I’m smaller and female does NOT mean you get to overlap my airplane seat!)

Fortunately, I love the people I work with. The last evening, we all went out to Bricktown, in the older renovated part of downtown Oklahoma City. The heat had relented and we enjoyed a gorgeous evening on the rooftop patio.

I posted the other day that being in OKC reminds me of the past, of my family’s origins, of how cities rise and decline. This work project, too, has been like that. I worked on it for over ten years, sometimes at a crazy level of intensity. Then it got axed and we went cold turkey. Now, after an 18-month hiatus, it’s running again. But changed.

It seems that things rarely ever end. They just stop for a while and then start again in a new way, with a slightly different face.

There’s comfort in that.

Before I Put on My Make-Up

Still in Oklahoma City for the day job, in a hotel I’m really not thrilled with. What I get for letting someone else pick it!

As I put on my make-up this morning, I noticed that the nasty lights over the mirror made my skin look green. At least, that’s the excuse I’m using to explain the puffy bags under my eyes. But, suddenly, I had this memory of those make-up mirrors with the lights on either side, that you could stand up on your vanity table. They had something like four settings: indoor, outdoor, evening and office. You could set the lighting so you could craft your color scheme to look best in that particular lighting.

Office was decidedly green.

This says so many things about how the world has changed. Designing a cosmetic scheme for different events in the day is no longer a priority for most women. Not all offices are studies in green fluorescent lighting. (For verisimilitude, Mad Men really should have used it. But who wants to see people in that light?) And who really has a vanity table anymore?

Being in Oklahoma City turns my mind to the past. My grandparents met here, back in the 30s. My grandfather managed the Criterion Movie Palace, which is now gone. They left the high-rolling scene here in a scandal, exiled to the backwater of Denver. Now this city is a declining ruin in many places. One of my colleagues asked why it declined and Denver boomed.

I don’t know.

But this city has beautiful places, too. With lots of renovation going on. What goes around, comes around.

One day I’ll send the city all those photos of the Criterion. I keep thinking someone would love to see them.

Take Back Those Metaphors!

We went back to Wyoming for the first time in nearly two years, to go camping with David’s family. The landscape felt immediately familiar. Not like going home again, but like recognizing a part of your own body. I suppose Wyoming will always be a large part of me.

I hadn’t realized that before.

A lot of the things we do day-to-day are reflexive. We don’t really think about the influences that shaped us, the expressions we use.

A little while back, I was on a conference call with my boss. She lives in New Hampshire, but grew up in the South. The call was set up by a guy in the company who usually moves in different circles than we do. He brought us together with another company, which planned to bid on a project and needed the expertise my boss and I have. So, most of us don’t know each other – and Laurie and I are the only two women on the call.

He starts off saying, “Why don’t you lead off, [Dan], since this is your wheelhouse.”

She and I are on IM together. So I type to her “Did he say wheelhouse? Is that a boating metaphor?”

She says, “Isn’t it trains?”

I say, “No, no – that’s roundhouse.”

From there they talked about us being in a huddle, running the ball down the field, shooting from outside and loading up the bases. I kept playing “try to guess the sports metaphor.” It took some effort, because I am just so not a sports kind of gal.

The guys didn’t mean to be exclusionary, of course. If we’d pointed it out to them, they’d have been abashed and apologetic. We’ve told this story a few times and a number of men have said that half the time they don’t know what the sports metaphor means either.

But my boss and I have decided to Take Back the Metaphors. It’s time that those of us who did not grow up playing team sports introduce our own views of success. Some possibilities.

“Let’s run that one down the catwalk and see who snaps a picture.”

“With shorter hemline and some creative accessorizing, this could be a whole new project.”

“All we’re doing is slapping a fresh coat of cosmetics over the wrinkles – we need a full facelift here.”

And, offered by my niece while camping in Wyoming:

“That lipstick will never last 12 hours.”

So, please, join our movement. Use the metier of your choice and Take Back that Metaphor!

New Beginnings

Look, our beaked rescue yucca is sending up a spire!

We figure this means it’s happy and getting established. Either that, or this is a last-ditch effort to reproduce before dying. We were concerned, after the very cold and dry winter and very dry spring, that it wasn’t doing well. It’s lovely to see this sign of vigor.

We prefer to focus on the positive.

I’m back home now. New England was lovely (damp) with many beautiful forests and waterways (cold), but it’s so good to be back in my home landscape with my at-home routines.

No, I didn’t get any writing done while I was gone. I finished out my first round of line edits on Sapphire on the plane there and then promptly failed to get anything else of a writing nature done, besides a few desultory blogs.

I just never do.

And I’m not totally sure why. I know part of it is my ritual is blown all to hell and gone. Even if I try to recreate it, I can’t. The other piece might be that I’m traveling for work and so I’m in work-brain 24/7. I never quite seem to shift out of it, even over the weekend. Of course, I was with my boss and we talked about work a lot, so that could be a contributing factor.

So, it’s good for me to sit at my writing desk again, with my storyboard beside me and all my little talismans of creativity. I like to think I’ve been storing up the writing these last few weeks and now this vigorous spire of creativity will pour out of me.

Me and the rescue yucca.

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Over the weekend I got to attend a Regatta.

Don’t you love how that rolls off the tongue?


It was just that styling, too.
Laurie’s daughter, Catherine was rowing with her schools’ team. She’s the ripped blonde in the red cap.
Here’s her team rowing out for their race while the boys prep.
Steaming to the finish line. They won handily.
Love the synchronicity.

Almost made me feel athletic, just to watch.

Sweet Life

On Saturday, my hosts took me on a hike on the Sweet Trail. Madison is a big fan of hikes, too.
All of this is freshwater estuarian marsh. Teeming with nesting birds of all types.
So lovely. The still water makes for great reflections.
If you look sharp, you can see lots of heron nests here.
The trail leads to the Great Bay. There’s a memorial there. Laurie’s husband, Bob, felt quite contemplative. For those of you keeping notes, this is what I want – a bench and an engraved marker in some beautiful spot.


I’m at my boss, Laurie’s, house this weekend in Durham, New Hampshire. All the flowers are in bloom.
I love the natural rock walls. And every opening looks like a lane into an enchanted forest.
The pond near their house. (Though the huge place in the background is not theirs.)
On the drive here, I wound through rolling hills and small towns. All along were small and ancient cemeteries, edged right up next to what used to be narrow lanes in dense woods.
Forget-me-nots all over their garden.

Always a special blossom.