Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Three Christmas Carols I Listened to Today

For if you want something dramatic, played by a chamber orchestra, and almost a little jazzy... The Wexford Carol as performed by City of London Sinfonia and sung by the King's Singers.



For if you want to pretend you're drinking mead with the lord of the manor... The King as performed by Loreena McKennitt and friends.



And for if you want to pretend it's the 80s... Pat-a-Pan as performed by David Archuleta.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

In Which We Try Falconry

This post is about hunting, using trained birds of prey. If you'd rather not read it, I understand... maybe go look at baby goats in pajamas instead :).

So. Kevin and I are doing one new thing every month that neither of us has ever done before.

In April, we went to a wolf sanctuary. In May, we went indoor skydiving. In June, we floated in floating tanks. In July, we got a golf lesson from my dad. In August, we went deep see fishing. And in September, we did Boda Borg.

In November, we met Master Falconer Chris Davis of New England Falconry...


in Amherst, Massachusetts...


And spent some time with some Harris's hawks.


 As usual, Kevin took better pictures than I did.


I was just so freaking excited. I couldn't focus on photography. Or anything, really, including many of the interesting thing Chris was saying, because I had a hawk on my hand.


This guy was so light, and silent, and graceful.

Chris taught us all about Harris's hawks, which are native to Mexico and Central and South America. They're social birds that hunt cooperatively in groups. He taught us about falconry too, about the process of training raptors to hunt and return to his hand. And then we joined Chris and two female Harris's hawks for a hunt.

This was the first time I've ever done any sort of hunting. I'm a meat-eater, I grew up in the country, and my mother grew up on a farm, so I've been surrounded by hunters and hunting all my life, but never participated in the hunting. I've always felt a level of discomfort and even distress around the topic, probably because of the hunting subculture in which people do it for sport rather than for food. I also think we live in a society that is extremely judgmental about what people should and shouldn't eat (perhaps especially women), and a society in which a lot of our food, especially our meat, is produced in distressing and inhumane ways. Food is a really, really complicated topic for most Americans (whether they're conscious of it or not!), and for a lot of us, hunting is too. So I was having a lot of thoughts and feelings as we directed the hawks to hunt for rabbits and squirrels, which we (and the hawks) later ate (and enjoyed!). A wild red-tailed hawk actually joined our hunt for a while too, which added a whole new level of things to think about.

I have a thoughtful post about it somewhere inside me. But I'm afraid that my thoughtful writing energy is going to the new book I'm writing these days, so I'm just not going to get into it today. Instead, I'm going to share a few more pictures of these beautiful birds in action, and ask you to forgive me for how uninformative and un-introspective this post is. The new book I'm currently drafting is, in part, about relationships between animals and humans, so I'm guessing that a lot of my thoughts and feelings will end up manifesting there.

Kevin took these pictures.




Many many thanks to Chris Davis for an experience unlike any I've ever had. It was without a doubt our most interesting New Thing so far.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Some (Mostly Meaningless) Reflections on Our Current Reality

For the last three weeks, I have mostly been listening. I've been listening to my friends talk to me and to each other. I've been listening to the reactions of smart writers and thinkers. I've been listening to podcasts and pundits. I've been listening to the sadness in my mother's voice and the faith in my father's voice. I've been listening to the comfort in Kevin's voice. I've been reading the texts and emails of my sisters, who are holding me up. At 2 AM the night of the election, the last thing I did before finally attempting sleep was to read a text from one of my heartbroken sisters. It said, "Love still trumps hate."

I've been listening to Georgette Heyer audiobooks and watching Jane the Virgin and Gilmore Girls, for comfort. I've been writing a new book, which is an amazing distraction and vast relief in the moments when a scene manages to suck me in. As is the case for many people, my mental health has taken a hit. So I've been dealing with that.

I haven't been blogging much, because I don't have anything new or fresh to contribute. Everyone else is saying everything better. Have you read Malinda Lo's lovely post?

I haven't figured out yet how I'll contribute. Of course I'll donate what money I can to what causes I can. Of course every book I write will be influenced by the realities of our world; they already are; I've already written three books with the backdrop of a narcissistic, cruel, selfish, power-hungry man who manipulates and traumatizes people with lies. I will keep telling stories – of the young people who throw their hearts and bodies into fighting that bullshit.

But I haven't figured out yet what else I will do. I'm slower than a lot of people who are currently bursting with passionate ideas left and right. But I'll figure it out. Each of us needs to find her purpose; forgive yourself if it's taking you longer than it seems to be taking other people. Forgive yourself if you're hearing ideas and thinking, "I'm not ready," or "That's not for me." Also, remember that small things matter as much as big things. Everything matters, and everything is connected.

Because I'm mostly listening and thinking, I'm not sure how much I'll be blogging about all of this. I'll keep blogging about writing; I'll keep blogging about the new things we're doing every month; certainly I'll be blogging about my new book. Beyond that, I'm still figuring out what to say here.

I wish I had something beautiful and inspiring to offer today. I don't. But, from my current place of deep processing, I wanted to reach out… and let people know that I don't have anything to say yet. If you find yourself trying to understand or articulate or express yourself right now, and you just can't yet – I feel for you. I get it. It's okay. We'll get there.

The one thing I'm sure of is that love does trump hate. Always.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Announcing My New Book: Jane, Unlimited

I have a new book coming out in Fall 2017, and I'm finally allowed to talk about it. :o)

It's called Jane, Unlimited. I won't say a lot for now—more will be forthcoming—but for today... Jane has led a small and mostly ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor at a small college and a world-traveling deep sea photographer. But when Aunt Magnolia dies unexpectedly on one of her expeditions, Jane finds herself adrift, and when an invitation comes from an old acquaintance to accompany her to a gala at her family's island mansion called Tu Reviens, Jane leaps at the chance. There, her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn't know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

This book has been years in the making, and has gone through more revisions than any of my previous books, probably because its structure was challenging and it took longer for me to figure out what the book was asking for. My editor, Kathy Dawson, is my freaking HERO. What else can I say about it? It's not the doorstopper Bitterblue was, though it's not exactly that elusive short book I keep trying to write, either. It's full of umbrellas. And adventure. And a big, weird, mysterious house. It's a little bit of an homage to duMaurier's Rebecca, and other "orphan visits a house of mystery" books. Mostly, I'm hoping it's a puzzle, but a puzzle that's full of heart. And I hope it will bring joy. And it'll be coming out in about a year! And I'm so grateful for the opportunity to offer it to you—and so relieved that I'm finally allowed to talk about it.

More soon!

♥ ♥ ♥

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Two Seven-Year-Olds Write Two Letters

My twin nieces live in Jacksonville, FL, an area that generally votes red, but only by a couple percentage points.

After the election, one of my nieces noticed that the neighbors had taken down their Hillary sign, and she worried that the neighbors were sad. So she wrote them a letter.

from: your neighbor [name redacted]
I Loved your Hilary sine


We are glad you Love Hiorlory.
We do too. I Loved your
Clinton Sine. and we
are Sad Trump won.
He is soooooooooooo
oooooooooooooo
ooo mean. But
were Glad Hilary
tride. I hope you saw
her speches?


(Final version of the letter, edited to strike a more positive note:)
We are glad you Love Hiorlory.
We do too. I Loved your
Clinton Sine. and we
are Sad Trump won.
We Hope He lernds
to Be nise. But
were Glad Hilary
tride. I hope you saw
her speches?

My other niece also wrote a letter (and you can too).

go Hilray
you are the Best
you tryed
Thank you for making us proud.

Hillary Clinton
PO Box 5256
New York, NY 10185-5256

SNL's beautiful tribute to Hillary and Leonard Cohen

In a week during which we lost both the election and Leonard Cohen, SNL's response was perfect. Press play. (And don't read the comments.)


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Love Still Trumps Hate

"Are you fighting the Black Thing?” Meg asked.

“Oh, yes,” Aunt Beast replied. “In doing that, we can never relax."

—Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time


An article in the Huffington Post that helps: What Do We Tell the Children?

(Thanks to Jess and Catherine.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sara Bareilles and Leslie Odom, Jr.: "Seriously"

This American Life asked Sara Bareilles to imagine what President Obama might be thinking about the current election and that horrible person, but can’t say publicly. Leslie Odom, Jr., performs the song. (There's a lot of hatred and bitterness in the youtube comments. Skip them.)


To my grandmas, my great aunts, and all the women who never got a chance to vote for a woman for President....

We went to the polls today for you.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Fall Foliage in Mount Auburn Cemetery

Leaf season this year has been (1) late and (2) more muted than average. My walk through the cemetery on Tuesday wasn't as spectacular as it is some years -- but it was still beautiful. Especially for those of you who don't get to experience a New England fall, here are some pictures :o)












Monday, October 31, 2016

Today's Election Free Zone: Halloween Pictures!

This summer I turned 40. This means that my life has become a model of solemnity and propriety.





So yes! This year we were the White Rabbit...


...and the Mad Hatter.


The genesis of this costume was this fascinator at Doramarra's shop on Etsy, which I've owned for a while but been stymied by. It's certainly evocative of the Mad Hatter, but it looks nothing like the hat the Mad Hatter wears, so I was afraid it wouldn't work as a costume. I'm glad we decided to try it, because this ended up being a lot of fun. I added a ribbon and the sign to the fascinator. I made the shirt and the corset, and even made spats. The ruffle on the shirt and decoration on the spats is one of those fabric ribbons with wire running through each edge, for wrapping fancy presents. The wire gave me control over the shape of the ruffles, which was great.


I found the leggings and the wig online, slapped on some sparkly makeup, and that was it. Kevin wore his own suit, carried one of my umbrellas, and got his hat/ears and pocket watch online. We made him a matching bowtie, painted his hair white using face paint (works much better and is much less disgusting than colored hair spray), and painted him a nose and whiskers. Done!

Thanks to Tim Correira for the photo booth, and LuQ and Irina (Mad Hatter #2 and Edward Scissorhands) for joining us!


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Slow Blanket in Progress :o)

For those of you who read my blog posts via Twitter, sorry if I've been flooding you with old posts. The feed I used to use (Twitterfeed) is shutting down soon, so I've had to start a new feed (dlvr.it). I'm pretty sure it re-posted a lot of stuff right away. Apologies, too, if new posts tweet twice for a few days. I want to make sure the new feed is 100% working before I cancel the old feed.

So, I knitted someone a blanket last Christmas. It was my first ever non-washcloth knitting project and it was a massive undertaking, not to mention a great success.

And after I gave the blanket to its intended recipient... I missed it. :o)

So I decided to make a blanket for myself, slowly. I'm knitting 63 individual squares, each lined in black crochet. Here's where I am so far...


Most of the squares have a simple pattern of vanishing squares.


But some of the squares are specialer.

Since I don't expect you to be able to tell, that's a hummingbird.

That's a turtle,

that's an umbrella,

and that's a Dalek.

I'm honestly not sure how much I like it. It's sort of like a book; until I finish it -- like, really finish it -- I can't quite see what it is and am mildly suspicious that it's dreadful.

Which is of course no reason not to proceed.

After that? I am dying -- DYING -- to get the world's fattest wool and knit one of these blankets, possibly using my arms as my knitting needles. I have no idea how to do this or what it costs (I can't imagine that yarn is cheap), and I don't have time to research it at the moment. But hopefully one of these is in my future.

More irrelevant randutiae when I get a chance :o).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Incredible Body-Painting

Japanese artist Chooo-San does the most incredible stuff with face- and body-paint, some of it creepy and scary, some of it just plain beautiful. Here's a representative collection of her stuff at My Modern Met.

Reminds me that I need to sort out the makeup for my (much less spectacular) Halloween costume, which I promise I'll post pictures of here, provided it all comes together :o). Here's a hint.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Paris's Independent Shopfronts and their Owners

At The Guardian, I love these gorgeous photos of the Parisian owners of indie shops standing in their own doorways. A chocolaterie, a patisserie, a pharmacie that makes me think of the TARDIS (sorry), a shop of homemade marionettes and toys, even a shop for pesticides and rodent traps (Destruction des Animaux Nuisibles). Photos taken by German photographer Sebastian Erras. Here at Snapshots: the shopfronts of independent Paris.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: 4-day-old Goat Meets 4-month-old Puppy

I actually think the puppy is doing a remarkable job restraining his excitement and yearning. Considering he's a puppy :o)


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Friday, October 14, 2016

Today's Beacon of Hope and Rightness: Our First Lady

This is political and election-related, so I debated whether I was breaking my "Safe Zone" promise by posting it here. It's a speech First Lady Michelle Obama gave yesterday in Manchester, New Hampshire, so of course it refers to that horrible man. But: it also brings rightness back; it's uplifting and hopeful; it made me feel seen, heard, cared about, and understood as a woman and as a decent human being during this horrific election season. And -- she never says his name, for which I am grateful.

Here's a link to video and transcript of Michelle Obama's speech yesterday in Manchester, NH.

(The speech is actually only 21 minutes long. The first ten minutes is the stuff that is SO GOOD TO HEAR, the next ten minutes is stuff about Hillary, and the last ten minutes is FLOTUS shaking hands while her Secret Service detail anxiously hovers.)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Earthset and Earthrise

From October 2007 to June 2009, a Japanese spacecraft called Kaguya orbited the moon. Kaguya had cameras, and the cameras recorded, among other things, views of the Earth rising and setting over the moon.

Here's Earth setting over (or under?) the south pole of the moon! (BTW, if you get my posts as emails and the videos don't work, just click through to my Blog Actual.)



For more photos and videos (all breath-taking), check out "New Gems from the Moon" at the blog of the Planetary Society.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Today's Election-Free Zone: Links to Beautiful Umbrellas

Let's start big: The magical unicorn umbrella promises to allow you to "Summon unicorns whilst staying dry." Disclaimer: "Unicorn sightings may vary depending on the strength of your imagination and the drugs you've consumed."

Whatever. Look at the handle. It obviously summons unicorns. Available at firebox.com.

Next up: This clear dome umbrella has an adorable street scene... and this one is a birdcage!

A Lulu Guinness umbrella, sadly out of stock at theumbrellashop.co.uk.

Next up, Bella Umbrella is a gorgeous umbrella store in Seattle. In addition to selling beautiful umbrellas, here are the vintage umbrellas they offer for rental (beautifully arranged by color!)... and here's an example of the umbrella wall they will help you build, should happen to require an umbrella wall, which is a completely normal human need.

One of the gorgeous vintage umbrellas at Bella Umbrella...

Next, check out the umbrellas and parasols at Parasolerie Heurtault in Paris. Functional umbrellas that are also pure art...

And, also in Paris, the Alexandra Sojfer collection. Alexandra's umbrellas are handmade in her in-house workshop, and they are SO ELEGANT. I know because I have one, and in fact, I may as well end this post with some pictures of a couple of my own umbrellas... randomly chosen, because they're the two I felt like photographing today.

This is my Alexandra Sojfer umbrella.

Inside detail.

My "Images d'Épinal" umbrella; paper dolls from Épinal, France.

Detail.

Come back to the blog tomorrow for comforting scenes of Earth, from the perspective of the moon.