Friday, May 15, 2020

Day 64

When I left our sweet apartment in the West Village on March 12, I never imagined that 64 days later I'd still be sheltering in place in my loft in Providence. But here we are, five of us and four cats. We've watched rain and wind and spring sunshine. We've played more games of cards and Catan and Code Names and Celebrity than I can count. We've watched dozens of movies, and the end of Survivor, and caught up on Top Chef. We've cooked chicken tikka masala and enchiladas and risotto and roast chicken and tuna and fish tacos and chicken Marbella and pork chops. We've made festive cocktails, every day at 6, a time to come together and talk about our frustrations with how this terrible pandemic has been handled and our fears for the future and our daily triumphs and family stories and jokes and sometimes we have the cocktails on the roof and we lift our faces to the sun and we feel grateful. We've celebrated two birthdays--16 and 27--one wedding anniversary, and Mother's Day. We've had insomnia and bad dreams and crazy dreams and we have slept blissfully through the night. We have read books, so many wonderful books. (mine: Mrs. Palmfrey at the Claremont and A View of the Harbor by Elizabeth Taylor, not the actress but the British writer; The Light Years by Jane Elizabeth Howard; The Essence of the Thing and The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John; Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns; and I've just started The Springs of Affection by Maeve Brennan and I recommend every single one of these books. Every one!) We've made movies of Friday cocktail hours (go to Ruhlman.com and you can see them too!) and of When Will My Life Begin (on YouTube with Katherine Guanche) and how to make my spaghetti carbonara (also at Ruhlman.com and the recipe is in Kitchen Yarns). Coming up: How to Make an Indian Feast. We've zoomed. A lot. Cocktail parties and writing workshops and theatre classes and meetings and parties and library talks. I brush my hair and put on make-up and a brightly colored top. I leave my pj bottoms on because only half of me is in that little square. We knit sweaters and hats and a baby blanket; we sewed masks; we made complicated origami. We organized cupboards and closets. We put together IKEA bookshelves. We went on bike rides--two miles, five miles, fifteen, twenty-five. We baked bread and cookies and cake and brownies and breakfast stratas. We wrote. We wrote for the LA Times and the NYT and the Washington Post. We wrote cookbooks and memoirs and a YA novel and short stories and five pages a day of a new novel. Some days we feel sad. Or scared. But mostly, mostly, we remember how deeply we love each other, how grateful we are to be here together, to have food and yarn and books and so many decks of cards that wherever you sit you can pick one up, shuffle and deal and in no time be moving a peg around a cribbage board. We are grateful for all these cats, who sleep on our laps or our feet, knock things off tabletops, chase their tails, hiss at each other, literally climb the walls, but eat together--all four of them adjusted to their new routine. Like us. Like you. Be grateful. be silly. Be somber. Be careful, because sadly the world, our beautiful world, is not safe right now. Write a poem. Knit something. Escape in a book. Cook comfort food. Forget about calories and haircuts and grudges. Pet your cat. Hug your children. Kiss your partner, a lot. Live this crazy life.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Sheltering in place

I hope you and yours are safe and healthy and taking this time together as a precious thing, despite the challenges they present. We have five people and four cats together, and are always figuring out both together time and privacy. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even with cat fights at 4AM. We are being very cautious and that means mostly staying in and avoiding social contact. I so want to hug my cousins and friends, but have opted to be risk adverse for all of our sakes

We are cooking a lot, and watching movies, and playing games, and doing jigsaw puzzles. Some of us go on bike rides, but I’m doing daily online ballet classes with The Ballet Coach, who is absolutely wonderful. I’m also knitting a sweater, and had to have one rescue FaceTime with my most beloved knitting teacher/friend. With life slowed down, I find I’m in closer touch with people I love.

Of course, as writers, Michael and I are used to being home all day. So our writing practice continues daily. Please enjoy my piece from the LA Times and his from the NYT.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2020/04/17/travel/food-tours.amp.html
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-04-11/knitting-stress-relief-pandemic

I write this as a big week for my family draws to a close. Sam and Annabelle both had birthdays, yet we also marked the 18th anniversary of my Gracie’s death. Michael and I chose to get married on  April 20 as a way to bring more joy into this week. Today we will celebrate our third anniversary with oysters and champagne. Even though a virus rages outside these walls, I am grateful for the love within them.

Stay safe. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Let us now praise Elizabeth Taylor

No, not that one! The British writer of days of yore.

But first. How is everyone? These are such strange times. Scary. Confusing. And for some, days spent being sick or having sick loved ones. Pictures of Central Park as a field hospital shock and upset me every day. All of the images of death and illness do.

We are all here sheltering in place. Five humans, four cats. This brings me peace, and joy, to hold my loved ones close. Lots of movies, games, reading, knitting, cooking. Lots of laughter and also hard talks as we navigate this pandemic. I know you are all experiencing the same.

So back to Elizabeth Taylor. The perfect way to spend hours. Delightful. British. Please just try MRS. PALFREY AT THE CLAREMONT.

This is short but I wanted to just post here for anyone needing to touch base with another soul. We are all in this together. I hope we emerge in tact, stronger, more compassionate for each other and our planet. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Other Side

Hello Everyone!

For me and my husband, staying at home all day and writing is what we do anyway. Since we both have big book deadlines, the hours kind of fly by--him at one end of the table, me at the other, or on the sofa, or even from bed. We are safe, hunkered down with Annabelle and the two cats, eating well and reading lots of very good books (no end of world books for me, thank you!). The three of us watch lots of movies together and play lots of games, but when Annabelle is talking with a friend we turn on Last Tango in Halifax for British escapist TV.

All of this sounds lovely, despite the crisis outside our door. And it is lovely. Except that there is a crisis outside our door. The National Guard. Everything shuttered, except thankfully our nearby grocery store. Sam leaving NYC as it becomes the epicenter for the virus with a peak predicted in a few weeks. Annabelle moving to online learning. My own teaching moving online--a learning curve for me. These are not normal times, and despite the loveliness, they are also not really lovely. they're scary.

Yesterday, we drove to the beach. It was a cold day, and windy, and the salt air was just what I needed. We walked up and down the beach, and then came home and made a dinner of Michael's homemade pasta and bolognese from Persimmon, one of our favorite local restaurants who, like all restaurants, has had to shut down. Then I had a good cry--worried about my kid getting home safely and being healthy, worried about keeping my little family healthy, worried about how all my speaking engagements for the next three months have cancelled, worried about maintaining my beautiful little home, worried that I am suddenly in a high risk group for this thing (wasn't I thirty-five just yesterday?), worried that I'm making good decisions about how to handle this thing. I cried and then I took a deep breath and a big swallow of wine, and moved on with the sweater I'm knitting, the book I'm reading, with moving forward despite this thing.

I've heard a lot of people setting goals--high ones, impossible ones--as if sheltering in place requires super hero achievements. But I would like to offer this: it requires different kinds of achievements. The ability to stay still, to think, to be creative--or not. To feed our families. To read books. To knit sweaters or dish rags or anything. To talk to the people you love. To take care of yourself.

Today I did something I've wanted to do for a long time. I started a sour dough starter with unfiltered pineapple juice and flour. In a week, I should have dough to make two pizzas. I have the time to nurture this starter, to feed it and tend it. It will take patience. And then there will be pizza.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Sheltering in Place

Well, dear ones, here we all our, hopefully sheltering in place. What strange times! I’m happy to tell you that Michael, Annabelle and I are hunkered down in Providence. And Sam and Katherine are safely sheltering in Brooklyn. It breaks my heart to not have them here with us, but this is the time for common sense and care.

Our days have taken on a lovely routine. Michael and I are both under book deadlines, so after the good part of the morning in bed with coffee and newspaper and conversation, we get to work. Annabelle sleeps the sleep of a teenager. Late afternoon we pick a movie from our movie box (made by Annabelle from an empty Friskies cat food box) where we’ve each submitted three movie titles. Whichever movie is selected we watch with no complaint (rule 1) and no person has two of their movies in a row (rule 2). This has given us insight into what each other most likes when the scrim of group consensus or trying to please interferes. As a result we’ve watched movies from Dirty Dancing to Pan’s Labyrinth.  After the first movie Michael and I have a cocktail while we all three play a game. Then it’s cooking and dinner and a second movie. I knit as we watch and Annabelle does origami. There’s time in every day for a walk and for reading. So as you can see, it’s hard to complain. And easy to feel grateful.

Last night we had a cookout on our roof with our neighbors. We all stayed six feet apart, ate burgers and wurst, and watched a beautiful sunset. I’ve been calling and texting loved ones every morning to stay connected and send love.

Thanks to the wonderful EI, I’m reading HARNESSING THE PEACOCKS by Mary Wesley right now, having also read WOMEN IN BLACK by Madeleine St. John, and ALL MY PUNY SORROWS by Miriam Towes. On deck is I CAPTURED THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith.

I am happily knitting a sweater! Big needles. Gorgeous pale blue chunky yarn. Pattern from Mason Dixon knitting, a pullover adaptation of a cardigan recipe. Will it fit? Who knows? But it’s a fun knitting project!

Tonight’s dinner is fried chicken by Michael, sweet potato fries by Annabelle, and corn heated up by me. We are going to drive to the beach tomorrow and pick up lobsters from The Matunuck Oyster House, and stopping at Persimmon to pick up their bolognese sauce. Yesterday’s wurtzes were from The Wurtz House. It’s important to support local restaurants as they’ve had to shut down and need our support.

We all need each other’s support right now. Knit. Read. Play a game of Uno or Clue or Hearts. Be creative. Eat well. Say I love you, often. Wash your hands.  

Monday, November 25, 2019

Come study with me!

If 2020 is your year to start that novel or memoir, or to finish it, I will be teaching far and wide and would love to see you again or meet you for the first time!

I don’t have all the dates here, but they are easily Google-able.

My January workshop at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg FL is full. So think 2021!

Online workshop, “Writing the Personal Essay”, through 24Pearl Street is offering a discount if you sign up early: EARLYWINTER20

The Newport MFA is accepting applications for June 2020! Poets, memoirists and fiction writers!

I’m teaching memoir writing at The Provincetown Fine Arts Center June 8-13.

I’ll be teaching non fiction in Dingle Ireland through Bay Path University the first week of August.

And I’ll be in Truro at Castle Hill August 17-21.

Finally, I will be teaching non fiction at Breadloaf in Sicily in mid September!

I hope to see you in Newport or Cape Cod, Ireland or Sicily!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Holidays

Are you getting that strange combination of exhilaration and sadness that comes as the holidays near? It’s no coincidence that I’ve been knitting like mad, even as I plan the thanksgiving menu and shop covertly for Christmas gifts. On the one hand, I’m tickled that the vintage wrapping paper I ordered arrived and is even better than it looked online. On the other hand, the weight of all the losses is sometimes so heavy that I literally can’t get up. I’ve learned to give in to that impulse, to give myself those dats under the quilt knitting socks and watching that British baking show, as long as I’m also ordering turkeys and hiding gifts and planning trips. As long as I’m knitting those socks and reading books and delighting in my kids and my darling husband.

For example, a bad cold and those holiday blues settled around me this week. But on the front end I got to see Sam’s new play (yay Sam and What Will the Neighbors Say?), see Annabelle’s play (yay Annabelle, techie extraordinaire), see The Slave Play and Cyrano. And eat, drink and be merry with my sweetheart. On the other end, Annabelle and cousin GJ and I saw the extraordinary show Guac at the 92nd St Y (yay James!), eat the best chines food in NYC at Hua Yuan, go to the Museum of Math (who knew?) and spend a lovely evening drinking whiskey with friends (yay again James!). In between, my uncle died and I sat with my cousins and remembered, so many things we remembered.

It’s raining here. Hard and cold. How silly it sounds to be grateful for this blanket from Uzbekistan that I’m beneath, these cats in my feet, my daughter studying for a pre calc test, my son celebrating his girlfriend’s birthday, this book I’m about to disappear into, that second sock waiting to be cast on, my husband—my love—two hundred miles away but home from the miami book festival, those turkeys I will roast, the wine I will drink, the friends and family who will be here and fill this loft with love.

If this week is hard for you, take time to hide. Take time to remember. Take time to truly be thankful.