Pouring in NYC this afternoon, so I ducked into one of those specialty coffee places. I waited behind two other wet people ordering from a barista so sprightly I could only assume he’d been hitting the product. When it was my turn I asked for a cup of tea. He pirouetted, grabbed a teabag, pulled the hot water, and said, “I can tell you how tea started. I mean, if you have time.”
“It’s raining, go ahead.”
“Well, a couple of thousand years ago the emperor of China used to drink hot water three times a day and then one day he was sitting in the garden and a leaf fell into his water and when his servants tried to take it away and give him another he said no because it was fate so he’d drink it and see what happened so they all watched and they were scared but afterwards he felt so great he wanted more of those leaves in his water the next day. And that’s how tea started.”
He grinned, gave me my tea, looked past me at the wet young man behind me and said, “What can I get you?”
I love New York.
Actually, Bookcamp is outside West Bend, WI. That sort of qualifies as the middle of nowhere but that’s why I love it. That, and the hard work of the students and the wonderfulness of the other faculty — Lisa Lickel, Phil Martin, and Dave Rank. I spent my time teaching; meeting one-on-one with students; listening to talks by guest faculty; walking in the woods; and sitting in my little room at the Cedar Valley Retreat, the 100-acre UCC facility Bookcamp rents for the week. And eating: the cuisine is Midwestern Hearty.
Below, some photos from the week. If all this sounds and looks good to you, Bookcamp 2018 will be May 20-26. You need not be Wisconsin-related, nor even able to spell Wisconsin, to come. Put yourself on my mailing list (scroll to the bottom) and you’ll get the details for next year when they’re out.
And just in case you can’t wait until next year for a workshop, I’ll be at Art Workshop International in Assisi, this August, and at the Himlayan Writers Workshop in Kathmandu, yes Kathmandu, in September. If you’re so moved, come to all three!
And now, Wisconsin.
View from my window
View down the road
Lawn at the edge of the woods
Robin who aimed for me (but he missed)
My mom, about twenty years ago at a family reunion. Miss you, Ma. (Don’t call me Ma!)
Is your Congressperson among those lily-livered sellouts (is being lily-livered a pre-existing condition?) who voted for this bill? Would you like to give her/him a piece of your mind but you find yourself just sputtering? At the request of a friend in a district represented by one of those hypocritical cowards (if this bill was going to be so great, why did they exempt themselves AND THEIR STAFFS from its provisions?) I’ve put together the following letter anyone is welcome, indeed encouraged, to use.
I am one of your constituents. I’ve read this so-called health-care bill — which, I suspect, is more than you did — and whatever nonsense you spout about coverage for pre-existing conditions, I can tell you this: if this bill becomes law, within two years I will be dead. However, you are up for re-election in less time than that. I promise you, whether the Senate passes this travesty of a bill or not, I’m going to spend the next 18 months fighting your re-election and making sure your career is dead, too.
Flatbush, Brooklyn, yesterday. No, I have no idea.
Okay, you guys, the special election in Georgia’s 6th District has its primary tomorrow, April 18th. We can take this seat — Tom Price’s old seat — if we get out the vote. Send a message to this administration that their policies are unacceptable! This is this first of many seats we can flip if we work together. If you live in Georgia’s 6th, get out and vote for Jon Ossoff! If you live elsewhere in Georgia make sure your friends in the 6th are getting out and voting. If you live somewhere else, share this anyway because someone you know will know someone who knows someone in Georgia’s 6th and everyone’s vote matters!
Finally, spring is here in NYC. We had two warm spells last month which fooled the trees and flowers, followed in one case by a temperature deep-dip and in the other by pounding cold rains. So the crocuses were barely seen this year and the earliest daffodils got flattened. The later daffodils have come out now to represent, though, and the tulips are up, though not blooming yet. One of the azaleas in the park can’t hold back anymore, either.
Down by the river it’s been foggy the last two days, yesterday a thick blanketing fog but this morning a fog thick low down and above but with a thinned-out strip in the middle. This leads to that odd sight where the bottoms, not the tops, of buildings are lost.
The Brant geese are still here, but they’re collecting in larger and larger groups so I think they’ll be heading back to the Arctic soon. The buffleheads seem to be already gone. Mallards, Canada geese (named, by the way, for a guy named Canada, not for the country) and Gadwalls are all here, eating like crazy and looking for places to nest. I saw an egret high overhead and this morning six blue herons heading north together. Robins, bluejays, cardinals, various sparrows, and mourning doves are haunting the yards behind me. Just now a clutch of sparrows, a species that gets their business done early, fledged, exploding out of the nest. One landed on my windowsill and as fledglings will, looked stunned at his own audacity and waited for instructions. Unlike this fledgling,
who was sitting about ten feet from the path at the Botanical Garden two weeks ago, also waiting for instructions from his circling parents, the sparrow on my windowsill actually has predators: Bella the Cat was pawing at the glass with excitement. Good thing for the sparrow population that glass doesn’t vaporize at a cat’s desire to spring.
ANATOMY OF INNOCENCE came out this week. The brainchild of Laura Caldwell and Leslie Klinger, the book pairs crime writers with exonerees — wrongfully convicted, that is, innocent, women and men who spent years, decades, in prison for crimes they hadn’t committed. Each writer was asked to work with an exoneree to tell a portion of the story, from initial involvement in the case through trial, prison, release, and beyond. I was given the double privilege of working with Gloria Killian, and telling the part of the exoneree story that opens the book. (“Hey, Gloria, they want us to do Chapter One!” “Oh, good, no pressure.”) If you’re thinking criminal justice reform is an abstract issue, this book gives you the opportunity to look at things differently.
Went out twice today, to keep appointments. After the first time, came home and wrote; after the second, toddled back to take a nap. But the sun’s out for the first time since Sunday and I feel better, though my cough sounds worse. Skipping basketball tonight but tomorrow I think I’ll launch myself back into action. Writing in the morning, a light gym workout (and some time in the steam room, for therapeutic purposes, of course), then a class I’m teaching, then one I’m taking.
Meanwhile, finished my taxes! Wrote, read, sorted through books to keep or gently move on, and as I started this post I realized this may be the first time since I began blogging that I’ve done four posts in four days. Will try to keep the surprising lessons of this staycation in mind, because think how even much more satisfying it will be if I can do it feeling well!
Since you were all so generous on the subject of my photos (thank you!) I’m going to close today with one of my personal favorites, of the west wall of the NYPL, Bryant Park, reflecting a September sunset.
My chest cold’s beginning to migrate to my nose, which is a good sign although it involves rather more sneezing than I’d prefer. I’d intended to end this withdrawal from the outside world this evening, with my 6:30 class, but three of my five students aren’t well either, so we postponed to next week. Tomorrow I have an appointment at 9:00 and one at 1:00, but I doubt if I’ll make it to 6:30 basketball, seeing as how I went out today to the store a few blocks away and came back coughing. Sigh.
And what did I do today? I wrote my way out of one scene and into another. I almost finished my taxes, cleaned out another couple of inches of files, did a whole bunch of handwash (I wash most of my black clothes by hand, so they’ll stay black, and anyone who’s seen me can guess how many shirts, pants, and leggings were hanging around). I did nap, yes indeed. And did some reading.
I’m getting a touch of cabin fever, and there’s no NCAA basketball tonight. I’m ready to step outside (and it’ll be sunny tomorrow!) although I’m also prepared to come back home and collapse after a few hours. Being finally back in action will be great, but this staycation thing hasn’t been all bad by any means. I have to make sure to remember this. A day, or two days, of this, every now and then — this is good stuff! It even gives you time to sort through some photos.