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Monday, September 28, 2020

My summer escapes, etc.

Bryan Nelson Elder CC BY-SA 3.0

Accompanied by the Youngest and the Husband

My husband was supposed to be volunteering in Mongolia this summer and was attempting to lure me along. Needless to confess, the woes of the virus kept us in the Village of Cooperstown. And we had some luck, as it was the prettiest summer in 22 years, sunny and warm and blooming. And now the maples are coloring up, and I suppose the last vestige of summer will end on Tuesday....


Frolics to amuse our youngest:
    a. ghost golf;
    b. mirror maze;
    c. go karts;
    d. Dinosaur BBQ.
All very mask-y and socially distanced, yes.


The leaves are turning, so the seasons must still be in order. No I did not see the Lake Champlain monster. Had good meals at Hen of the Wood, Bangkok Bistro, and Skinny Pancake. College protests all started with "Oink, oink" and continued in the usual fashion. Lovely swings by the lake, not far from the Requisite Edge-of-Campus Encampment with garbage and fancy tents. Ah, sunsets!


Lovely ferry ride from Charlotte, Vermont to Essex. And Essex (1765) is wonderfully charming and ancient in the American way (that is, not that old for most parts of the world but ancient for us, meaning lots of pre-Civil War architecture and still intact.) Octagonal private schoolhouse! (And oddly, another one out in the countryside,  but made of stone. And that one in 1826 seems about a quarter-century too early for octagons.) Lots of Greek Revival, federal, and Georgia architecture. Cunning library. Gardens still in full blow, with lots of Japanese anemones and butterfly bushes and salvia, etc. The earliest surviving house appeared to be 1780's... 

Had a good lunch relaxing in squishy chairs overlooking the lake at the Pink Pig. And we had our more-than-fair share of gorgeous sunshine, colored leaves, deep blue water, and good company.


Curious village-anthropology incident... After lunch, we had an exciting Karen Encounter while rambling along the street drinking our respective beverages, masks in hands. Although a good ten feet away from any other human being, we were chided at some length to socially distance and put on our masks. I'm afraid we responded by veering a few more inches away to make sure we did not accidentally tumble into the careful shop lady's place of business. 

Of evolving anthropological interest: she did have the requisite long bob of Karen fame.


Receding in memory, but it was good to see ocean, admire architecture, wolf excessive amounts of seafood out-of-doors on piers and decks, sniff hard at the salt air through our masks, and march indefatigably all over town. 

Also, I just barely missed stepping on a dirty needle near the Portland Encampment in my sandals--and barely missing is excellent, infinitely better than not missing at all. Tents were definitely not of the fancy Burlington Encampment variety. 

Notable: the famous potato doughnuts with interesting Maine flavors (wild blueberry, maple, lemon-ginger lobster, hermit armpit, moose, etcetera.)



Unrelated news: If you are like most of the population in northern and southern hemispheres, you may not have read my new novel yet. Please do. Charis in the World of Wonders is a better escape from Covid19 than ghost golf, potato doughnuts, and a ferry ride rolled into one enticing ball. (In fact, there are ferries in Charis in the World of Wonders, but no ghost golf and no potato doughnuts or, indeed, doughnuts of any kind. There is a tray of bride cakes, however.) 

If you have already escaped massacre and horrid frontier-village dangers (Goody-Karens, witchcraft, magistrates, and so on), then I suggest you time travel back a year and read The Book of the Red King.



I've rather lost track of comments by writers, but here's a lovely one from poet Mischa Willett of Washington State. If you earnestly and sincerely and greatly desire more (i.e. more reasons to readreadread), check out the book page.

(Willett, Willett... Long ago, I lived on Willett St. in Albany--my first two children were born there. It was near the Psychiatric Center, and I had many odd adventures with people in the park across the street from our apartment. Like Central Park, it's an Olmstead-designed park. In case you are wondering, I expect that probably has nothing to do with Mischa Willett. Oh, there's a new Willettian work: The Elegy Beta. And I am reading and liking it this week, so I am glad Mischa found my novel because that meant I found The Elegy Beta.)

Post-detour: finally, here's the tweet! With Mischa's curtain, lamp, clock, and copy of Charis.

Mischa Willett
I don’t recall when I’ve enjoyed a work of fiction as much as this one, new from ⁦⁩. For me it gets this timeless Cormac McCarthy vibe crossed with an audacious Faulknerian mythos and dislocating force of language plus some of Buechner’s blunt holiness.
Folded hands


  1. I was about to instance the Octagon House in Washington, DC, as an early octagon, but Wikipedia says that it has six sides. I've been in it at least once, and past it many times, but clearly I never counted sides.

    Our neighborhood is all but a cul de sac, with comparatively little auto traffic, so it is safe to or run in the street and give passers by a more than social distance. I walk and run unmasked, and often enough see persons on the other side of the street bring up their masks as I come near. None have so far said anything about this, though.

    1. Mid-century was more the time when octagons bloomed... I thought it interesting that there was an early one in such a rural area.

      People here are required to mask on several blocks of Main St. Otherwise, we are free to physically separate or carry a mask or whatever we choose. I expect it will be more important as winter comes on. The woolly bears are predicting a brutal winter...

  2. I was at a secondhand bookstore in rural Maryland a couple weeks ago when the teenager at the checkout counter was absolutely flustered by the customer in front of me: a seemingly guile-less fellow with an African accent who had no idea, even after all these months, that he was expected to wear a mask inside the store. He gratefully accepted the complimentary mask the store offered him and was obviously embarrassed that he had caused any trouble. I was tempted to follow him around for a while, because I suspect he was a friendly visitor from another planet who saw the "masks required" sign at the door and was confident that his human disguise was sufficient.

    1. Interesting. Perhaps there was a fascinating story behind his mask-innocence.

      Africa and Covid19...another curious story. People were so fearful for Africa because of crowded townships, communal water, etc. I think they still have not figured out why African countries have done so well, at least until now--younger age of population, prior exposure to coronaviruses, temperatures? Whatever it is: wonderful. Hope it continues.


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.