Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Way We Keep Books

While books bulge off my shelves and cascade on my night table with occasional dog-eared pages, for the most part, I don't own many of the books I love. Most are in circulation at a library or travelling through wandering hands at a used-book store.  I used to carry certain slim books of poetry through my life but, after so many brown-box moves, they have vanished.

I used to run into someone on the subway (a person who appears in my life in strange ways since a job I had just out of school.)  What are you reading? I asked once, because he always kept a book in his pocket, a paper fold leaking from the zipper. I'm not reading it, I just like to have it with me, he said. 

I thought I understood. But then I didn't. And then, I thought, he had always been somewhat odd.

I am an avid reader and, I hope, a thoughtful one. I do like to be with books, to have them in my bag, to stand among them in cozy shops or libraries, to know they are near. But books have always stayed with me in strange ways.  I could love a book, clutch it to my heart, oh, oh, oh, and, a week later, someone could ask me its plot.  I'll hmm and stammer.  Most of the time, I don't remember the main character's name.

Books have never been reference for me.  I can't quote a single line. I can't point to the shelf, pull it out, read a passage. Oh, I read that!  I'll say when someone mentions a title. But then I never seem to know the facts, the figures, the names, the place.  

It seems a book is mine and I am its, when it is in my hands.

Feelings, stirrings, moments, do linger after I leave the pages. They do keep.  A certain wishing of almost-twin birthdays on a plane, a girl peeling potatoes in the back room of a catering hall.  Sometimes I can connect these moments to specific books. But most of the time?  I can't tell you the writer or even the title.

For someone who often considers books her life's blood, I have wondered, am I the only one, who is only able to keep pieces of books in a dusty jar of memory?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Twelve Little Girls In Two Straight Lines

New York City is beautiful for so many reasons. This being one of them. A bar of original paintings by Ludwig Bemelmans, the writer and illustrator of Madeline, my favorite children's book of all time.  The murals circle the entire place, every inch of wall, every candle lamp. 

I spent $21 on one cocktail. I didn't care. It's too special of a place to care.

(I'm only sorry the photos are so blurred) 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I love these pale winter petals, brushed by the light of burning lamps on the streets of Society Hill in Philadelphia (where I ran off to, briefly, just the other day.) 

Does anyone know these flowers?  How do they dry and stay through winter? 

Monday, February 18, 2013

It's Work-In-Progress Day, Share Your Words

The ever-lovely Beth Kephart has declared it Work-In-Progress day and she has encouraged writers to share small excerpts from things they're writing or have written (and her own gorgeous words here.)

I've enjoyed reading through the beautiful words others have written or linked to on her Facebook page. How amazing to share our words and know we're all working towards telling the world a story, whatever it may be.

So, will you join in?  Because I truly want to read what you're writing, if you feel comfortable and want to share.  I hope you'll post a snippet on your blog.  Or on Facebook (if we're not friends, can we be?) Then let me know, if you do.  And spread the word!

And my own words from some kind of something, I don't know yet:

“Ya see that white tip there?”  His gloved fingers stretch out like they are reaching for a slow dance.
            I hold the binoculars at my eyes and my eyelashes catch the reflection, prickly magnified spiders that graze the sky then butterfly kiss a brown tangle of branches. “Where?” 
            “Ya see the tallest tree?”
            I move the binoculars away. I look out. I have no idea which tree is tallest.  But I nod.
            “Two trees to the left.”  His fingers smudge across the frozen river. “That white spot.  You see it?”
            I want to see it, this thieving eagle. I want, desperately, to please him.  I steady the binoculars.  I search.  For one white, feathered space.  But winter is stained gray and brown and the sun film-flickers through the lens. The landscape rattles at my lashes.  I see nothing.
“Oh look,” I say, anyway. “I see it.” Stolen wonder streaks across my chest. My terrible heart, the yawning cavity of a tree.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Beyond the Fair

Yesterday was a full, whirlwind day.  Long meetings in the morning, walking the floor of the Javits Center for the annual American International Toy Fair in the afternoon, then running off to a workshop in the evening to learn about writing the news for kids.

Toy fair is a fluorescent lit, starburst try-me shout, wow wow, look here spectacle.  Never good for someone who has a fear of crowded spaces, who panics when over-stimulated with bright lights and loud noises.

At some point, I became delirious, nearly falling over in tearful laughter when someone pointed out a baby-doll with a toilet and a little poop inside it that disappears when you flush, leaving me with flashbacks of a doll I had as a little girl, who came with green-slime baby food that went straight through her pliable pink lips and out her butt into a diaper, which was both thrilling and repulsive at the same time.  

So with head aching, armpits sweating (crowds, crowds, too many crowds), thinking about rubber-bodied baby dolls regurgitating green slime, I found myself in some dark corner of baby sippy-cups with flexible handles and looked up.  Windows.  I had forgotten the Javits Center had windows. I could see sky. And the hint of some gray cloud.

Of course I shouldn't have, of course I'm sure that my badge didn't allow access there, but I walked behind the black curtain skirting this building of trade booths, and there, beyond the spit up and break down of the show behind the show, beyond carts and boxes and tape and scrap, beyond a building of people buying and selling and shouting the magic of play or childhood or something so irrevocably lost it hurts my heart, was one of the most beautiful sunsets I'd ever seen.    

Monday, February 11, 2013

Life's Leaps

Often, I look around and realize the beautiful things my friends are doing.  What they're bringing to the world with their passion and energy.  As I prepare to take my own risks in this life, I've been holding my breath, waiting to exhale and leap.  Then I see these people jumping and it makes me want to swing my arms back a little more and go.

My dear friend Allison at Allison Writes is embarking on a brave and bold project called We Are Storytellers.  I hope you'll follow her journey here, as she encourages adults with intellectual, physical, and developmental disabilities to tell their stories. I'm really proud to know Allison and I think you will be too.  

I wonder, who is inspiring you, lately, to take life's leaps?

Sunday, February 10, 2013


When I woke up yesterday I was like a child, went straight to the window to see what magic the night storm had brought.  There were, maybe, ten inches of snow and New Englander Tyler scoffed, that's nothing, but the kids were outside whooping and dragging sleds and the shovels scratched across the sidewalks and I insisted we go to Prospect Park to see it pure.  

I expected to see the long wide meadows of Prospect Park in a sheet of white, but I had forgotten that this oasis is also made of narrow, wandering trails, so we found ourselves inside this wonderland.  

Here in the middle of concrete Brooklyn.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013



1. Sitting on the couch in our office's media room with my boss.  I've got that bad-habit shaky foot.  Sometimes it feels like we're selling a promise we do not keep.

2. A quick thai food lunch with co-workers.  Tiffany tells me she stays late because she needs more time to think.  Others are better at reacting.  I'm not.

I wonder what would happen in reverse.  If we sold keepsakes and promised nothing.  If we thought more and reacted less.

Monday, February 4, 2013

This Month

This month, my novel is in trusted hands. I have a new novel on a slow, long simmer. I'm excited about it (so excited) but it needs time to breathe. So I've decided to write with more freedom and experimentation. I want to try new things.

This month, I thought, I'll write for me and only me.  I'll imagine a story the way I have to imagine it.  Which is: each frame, the flicker of moving film.  I'll hear the story the way I need to hear it.  Which is: each line, the measure of a song.

In a way, I've always written to music and pictures.  I imagine a scene in my mind first, then feel the rhythm of the words. And all the revision (so. much. revision) is working towards that original moving, breathing, melody.

I'm starting a new project.  For me and only me (as someone who spends hours a day writing for a whining corporate giant, I feel I must reiterate this.)  There are new ways to experience story, to physically interact with it.  And I've got ideas.

What are you working on this month?  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Platos Pequenos and Huckleberry Friends

I had a thought involving food.  So the email pinged from Tyler's cousin and his wife, an extraordinary duo, two of our favorite people in the world.

Platos pequenos, the email continued, and I could hear their easy Spanish from years spent in Costa Rica, where they met and then later, here in Brooklyn, became a family and, so, became Tyler's family, and then, in a way, became mine.  Platos pequenos, my awkward, butchered repetition, later, to Tyler, from years spent working with an explorer named Dora.  Platos pequenos. All the small plates we could think of. 

Nights with Mathias and Allison run long and, always, warm in the overwhelming heat of one of our homes (ours in summer, theirs in winter.)  Dirty dishes pile in the sink, music hums, beating the rhythm of our easy conversation. What's a Huckleberry friend? I'll wonder out loud when Sinatra croons Moon River and the discussion turns thoughtful and there's talk of Twain and the bend of friendship along a river and the color of huckleberries, and whatever the explanation, I think, whether they are Tyler's family or perhaps mine, or just two of the best-found people in this criss-cross life, I think, these, are huckleberry friends. 

In any case, this was our meal.  Which I wanted to share with you.  Not so small at all.

Stuffed devil peppers, white bean spread, marinated anchovies, bacon-wrapped prunes

Marinated octopus and roasted garlic

Jamon Serrano
Tunisian Carrot Salad. Recipe here.

We tried to recreate a dish we had on our honeymoon in San Sebastian, Spain at a small but beloved pintxos bar, Bar Goiz Argi.  

One of the best blue cheeses I have ever had in my life. Thank you Allison.

Mathias pours Txakoli,  a spanish white wine that you pour from up high to create a happy fizz.