Wednesday morning, early. Breakfast is cooking in the oven – I planned to get up early enough so that it would be ready before Deb got up – but as usual, I failed. Not in getting up early enough, but in keeping Sombra and me quiet enough so that she didn’t get up. There are just too many sqeaky doors and tail thumps at the thought of tennis balls!
I’m being encouraged to be a bit more diligent about taking photos, and posting, of my current gardening efforts. Change is gradual even though Spring is here. Its early, yet, but beans, peas and carrots are up both at the the farm and in Guilford, and in the latter, we are almost ready to start the second “mowing” of lettuce even though we’re not all through with the first! Raised beds a bit of a success so far.
Yesterday, the first 1/3 of the corn patch got planted (100 seeds in 5 rows, to aid cross-pollination) and the first two pyramids for pole beans erected and planted. Four of the poles were from last year, and the next four were ancient ones from the shed. Dry, for sure – but I hope not too brittle in August when the pyramids are “fully loaded”!
Farm garden – 1/3 terraced and half planted:
We were pretty sure it would rain this week, because the tree peonies are in bloom. It seems to happen every year, just when the blooms are fullest and heaviest. They usually coincide with the first thunderstorms, which are promised for this afternoon; but here’s one blossom – just before the rains.
And finally – slow but ongoing progress in straightening out the beds out back! Now, the question is – did these photos actually load?
bleeding hearts and lenten roses….
Better than forget-me-nots!
Suddenly the season has become winter. Six inches of snow fell overnight yesterday. My neighbors have built a snow hut in their backyard tall enough that I might be able to stand upright in it. While I was shoveling out my driveway yesteray, three teenagers pulled in next door and got uproariously stuck in their own. They had come home to get sleds, and they were whooping with laughter and falling in the snow.
I stopped at the bakery on my way to work and got stuck in the lot, and two kind men in woolen hats heped get me loose again. The whole day felt like a snow day, even at midnight in the newsroom. Like a holiday.
So for the holidays I wish us all time to shovel snow and moments of calm and moments of glee — times when a job feels elatedly right and times to rest.
And most of all, a blessing on any who are feeling the holidays as something new, or for the first time.
A wish for your son’s first nights
When you sit, all three wrapped in blankets,
in the early dark, blue on the shoulders
of the hills, letting pillows hold your heads,
and listen to the bubble of his breathing,
let the quiet instill warmth, in the new way
tinder and cardboard on the hearth kindle.
Your husband brings in wood. You light the candles,
sing she’hecheyanu and tuck in blankets.
While the candles burn, you may sit this way,
one head against your thigh, one on your shoulder,
and hum with the resonance of their breathing,
your hand on his head, your head against his head.
You know tonight and need not count ahead.
One candle for each night and one to kindle
make nine, one for each night he has had breath,
one for each night tired men in muddy blankets
paced a stone floor, rubbing knotted shoulders,
waiting for a light to fade away.
Because one oil lamp would not burn away
you slide a hand behind an infant head
supporting with a hand behind his shoulders
so he can see the sinking of the candles
as they settle into waxy blankets.
You kneel to feed the hearth fire with your breath.
You whisper over him the words you breathed
over the candles and tell him the way
to sing them, as you burrow into blankets,
all three of you. Your husband strokes your head.
You close your eyes and small reflections kindle
behind your eyelids as he rubs your shoulders.
Let soft wool lie lightly on your shoulders.
Let you feel, all three, the same soft breathing.
In astonished dark small lights are kindled,
until tonight you circle this slight weight
who rests in a palm and cannot raise his head.
Tell him long after he outgrows these blankets
how you stroked his head beneath the blankets
while night slipped away. How you felt his breathing
against your shoulder. How he kindled the night.
Early spring went to the novel and late spring to the 50-page summer calendar. My weekly magazine has resumed, and I spent this morning in a sunlit maze of Japanese silk screens. This afternoon, a naturalist looked up peepers’ spring calls online for me with a gray tree frog sitting on his thumb. Tree frogs sit with their feet tucked in, to fit on leaves without overhanging.
We sat on their porch, and you held my hands.
We sat on the floor on Easter weekend.
And I was shaking, not from the cold
we get in the hills, even in July,
because I could have lost what I was building.
Twenty-one friends eating chocolate downstairs
at the farm where we rode together as teenagers,
and we were talking novels eye to eye.
Inside they washed dishes and piled old corn cobs.
I had had this work barely six months.
If she takes it, I said, she will not know
or care what she has taken from me.
Mills and fires and jubilations
I want to give you — after all this time
as close colleagues as we ever were
in stables, mucking stalls and singing Graceland,
as close as I felt the day you married
in a New England tavern with mango rice,
thirty years of friendship in one warm rain,
and we fed apples to the horses next door
from the porch table under crimson stars —
You have saved your fields twice and lost far more
than I have ever built, and still you hold me.
In looking for literary agents, I keep finding an instruction: do your homework. Know how publishing works. Know what agents do and know what a specific agent has represented. I agree; it’s sound sense.
If this works, I’m hoping to find someone to work with for a good long time; I want to feel confident in them. This is work it will help me to do. I would want to know at least whether an agent might like my kind of book and way of writing and values before I sent a query letter. In any case, asking an agent to do work that I should do is the best way I can think of to get turned down, and they would be right to turn me down.
The questions is: how to find out? Some agents I’ve researched give examples of books they have represented, in which case the answer is in part to read the books. But many do not. One agency (one I have a recommendation for) lists nonfiction books but not fiction, though they represent novels.
I know why. I deal enough with people wanting my time, in my own job, to know how this works. Agents want to protect their writers and themselves, and they should. But I want to know more about them and their world than a few articles in Writer’s Digest can tell me. So it’s my job to go looking.