Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The joys and constraints of writing about a friend

Secret footage of our photo shoot with Adrien Bisson (, courtesy Diane Hall.
This month's issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine includes an interview with my friend, the funny, encouraging, colorful, and talented Holly Robinson. You should certainly run out and find a copy, but until you do, you can read the article here:

Beach Plum Island: A story of sand and sisters.

One drawback of writing for magazines is the space limitation. I had to condense what I know about Holly and her latest book into just a few hundred words, which is a challenge. My goal for this piece was to offer a few tidbits which illustrate the depth of emotion into which Holly taps, along with samples of her lyrical language.

But that leaves a whole bunch out. I could write any number of articles about Holly's belly-laugh-inducing memoir The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter. And last night I finished reading another of her novels titled Sleeping Tigers which is fodder for a few more pieces. But there's a lot more to Holly than just her work.

You know that feeling, that rare experience of meeting someone and immediately knowing you want to become friends? That's how it was when I met Holly. There was something about the way that she interacted with people at the writer's event we were attending that made me like her immediately. She was curious, and listened thoughtfully. She responded generously. She laughed at herself, and with others. My gut told me that there was something really good there.

A year or two later and we re-met at a similar writer's dinner, connecting again and this time continuing our connection. She's a source of great advice, encouragement, and laughter.

Plus she's a damned good writer.

So check out the article. And buy her books. And post reviews on Amazon and GoodReads and all the other places reviews are posted. She'll appreciate it, and so will I.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mystery art beach

Two years ago I accidentally stumbled across a deserted stretch of beach in Newburyport, not far from Joppa Park and sniffing distance from the sewage treatment plant. It's a grungy place that you'd never expect would contain an art gallery.

But it does.

In this month's issue of Merrimack Valley Magazine, I had the honor of talking to three artists who create installations on that beach. Be sure to grab a copy to check out the article, but space is limited in the magazine, so here are a few more photos to give you an idea of the types of work you'll see if you visit the beach itself.

And while you're there, you might want to arrange your own collection of found materials for other wanderers to discover.

Photos courtesy of the author,  Jeff Esche & Rebecca Wish Esche, Valeria Gergo, and an artist who wishes to remain anonymous.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

On a day just like today...

Today my eldest child turns 26.

This past year has been a curious time of crossing over. At her age I was working and gestating as her father finished college. Pictures of his graduation show me in an old-fashioned white dress, trimmed in lace, my belly huge and ripe in readiness. My father-in-law wisecracked that I looked like a pregnant bride.

When she was born I was scared out of my wits, overwhelmed with love and the immensity and gravity of keeping this tiny creature alive. My husband was a pragmatist who rightly coached that it was merely a matter of feeding and changing, of washing and watching. He was right, of course, in his concreteness. But I was also right in my fear. I could grow her, certainly. But I couldn't protect her. Not really. Not from the world and it's brutality, not from my own broken edges.

I could try, and I would try, but eventually even the most tightly wrapped cotton batting gets shredded and frayed, and turns gray and dingy. Sometimes the wrapper herself tears away chunks without meaning to, or without the ability to stop it, and weeps at the torn fibers clutched tightly in her fists.

Today is my lovely daughter's birthday. A day my sweet Dolce celebrates for me and with me. She sometimes buys me flowers. She always asks me questions as the hours progress.
"Has your water broken?"

"Are you having contractions?"

"Are you still crunching ice chips?"
Today her questions were different though. She's spent some time with Kiera, but not very much. Not nearly enough. And so, she asked me:
"Are you guys similar?"
"In a lot of ways I guess."
"Does she like makeup and lipstick?"
"Does she like wine?"
"Yes. And cocktails."
"Does she like strange people?"
"Yes. She collects them. They are attracted to her."
"I know she likes to write. She writes beautifully."
"Yes. She does."
"She's obviously smart."
"Is she hungry for God?"
"She's a truth seeker. She is hungry for truth."
"Does she like to wear dresses?"
"Yes. Sometimes. But she's self-conscious about her skinny calves."
"Is she kind?"
"Yes. And accepting. Remember? She loved working with troubled kids, and developmentally delayed adults. She taught life skills to autistic kids and was a night aid for a quadriplegic man."
"That's right! Is she funny?"
"Yes. Very funny. And silly."
"Well then. She's a lot like you. The world should be grateful to you for having her. I know I am."
And I am too. More than I can say.

The mystery of love and conception and birth and child-rearing and releasing and regretting and wishing and hoping is so complexly nuanced that it is foolishness to even try to convey it.

And so I won't.

Other than to say that I love you, Kiera Doodle. And I am honored to be your mother.