That tree in the front driveway that I was talking about the other day is now showing its first patch of color. Summer is now officially (for local household values of “official”) transitioning into autumn.
We have also recently taken in our first batch of gift zucchini. Likewise a couple of locally-grown tomatoes, which promptly went into BLT sandwiches. Raising tomatoes up here in northern New England is a triumph of hope over experience every time; they have to be started indoors, and once they’re out in the garden, it’s a race between them and the first frost.
(A harbinger, by the way, was originally a person who went ahead of an army to arrange for lodgings, going back through Old French to Old Saxon to a couple of root words heri and berga – meaning, respectively “army” and “a fortified place.” The latter is the same root that shows up in a lot of place names, since for a long time, historically speaking, “city” and “fortified place” were more or less synonymous.)
Any day now, though, the maple tree by the foot of our driveway will show its first patch of color. August up here is almost as much the start of autumn as it is the last of summer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I lived for long enough in Texas, where July and August are fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk months; and I spent three and a half years in the literal tropics when my husband/co-author was in the Navy and stationed in Panamá, where you got a choice between hot and rainy and hot and not-rainy (but still humid), six months on and six months off; and believe me, seasons are good, and New England seasons suit me fine.
(Granted, January and February are a frozen hell, but my theory is that no matter how much you like the climate where you are, there are going to be a couple of months out of the year when you pay for it.)
My favorite seasons, which also happen to be the best ones for writing in as far as I’m concerned†, are spring and fall, both of which proceed up here in a leisurely fashion, with subtle gradations along the way. Fall, for example, goes through early fall and first frost to peak color to waiting for the snow-that-sticks, and runs roughly from mid-August to late November.
Meanwhile, it’s summer, and any day now I expect that the local gardeners will be palming off their excess zucchini (there appears to be no middle ground between no zucchini and too much zucchini) on anyone who will take it, and I will be making lots of zucchini bread.
†Obligatory writing reference!
We’re now well into the time of hot, oppressive days and high pollen counts. The cats, instead of sitting like little furry meatloafs with tails and paws neatly tucked in, are stretched out into longcats, and can be reliably used to find the spots with the best cooling cross-drafts.
Which are no good to the rest of us, because the cats own them.
Summer is not the most enjoyable time for doing work, but work nevertheless must be done (this is where I point, in a discreet parenthesis, to the “Editorial and Critique Services” link up at the top of the page), so I’ll leave you with a handful of links to amuse or interest you during the days when you’re not on vacation at the beach, or in a mountaintop cabin, or in a hermetically sealed and thoroughly air-conditioned hotel room, if such is your pleasure:
First, a clip of Jim Macdonald, my co-author, in his other role as a magician (complete with top hat!)
Next, a good (and funny) explanation of the context rules for the use of bad language, and a report on the discovery of the earliest known use of the f-word in written English.
And finally, a video demonstrating how to put on a set of late 14th-century armor.
Stay cool, and enjoy.
Or, Robert Frost gets it right again.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall….
Tree roots and the freeze-thaw cycle, to be specific.
The freeze-thaw cycle is also responsible for frost heaves, which can give the roads up here a corrugated appearance in late winter and early spring, and likewise for the epic potholes that show up a little later.
In honor of the upcoming (for those who celebrate it) Easter holiday, and because the cold winter just now passing away kept me from starting my customary spring sale in a more timely fashion, I’m taking this opportunity to extend the seasonal special until April 23rd – or Low Sunday, as it’s called in the liturgical traditions. (It’s traditionally the choir’s day off after the intensity of Holy Week, or at least such was the case back when I was a grad student at UPenn and singing in the church choir at St. Mary’s, Hamilton Village – which was also the church I was married in, and I was pleased to see, when I Googled it, that the parish is still going strong and is still active in social justice work after all these years.)
As usual, the seasonal special gets your standard-weight novel (or that of a friend) a line-edit and critique for $1000 instead of the customary $1500, and the purchase can be redeemed either now or later, as the recipient pleases.
Winter Storm Stella came through here yesterday and last night, and left a foot or so of snow behind, a lot of which is going to have to be removed from our driveway. I give thanks for the presence in the household of our younger son, who shovels the driveway so we don’t have to – though what we’ll do when he departs onto the next stage of his Life Journey™, I don’t know. Buy a snow blower, probably, if we can afford one.
At least we didn’t lose power – or haven’t lost it so far, let’s not get cocky, here – which means that writing and editorial work can go on unhindered.
Obligatory writing reference: If you’re from one of the parts of the world where hard winters and deep snow aren’t a thing, do your research before writing about it. And don’t trust film and television for a second, unless maybe you’re watching a Weather Channel documentary or the like; TV and the movies regularly have people running around in deep snow wearing outfits that would get them killed in the real world. To be, however reluctantly, fair to the visual-media people, your actual effective cold-weather garments are about as far from photogenic as it’s possible to get, and nobody wants to turn their high-priced talent into a bunch of down-filled-parka-clad clones – but we toilers of the written word don’t have that problem, or that excuse.
If you don’t live in cold-weather country, and need to write about it, consider visiting some cold weather, if you can. (If you’ve got a local friend, pay attention to what they tell you about what not to do. If you’re a stranger to the area, double-check with the locals you do interact with – the tourist bureau, the waitperson at the diner, the clerk at the 7-11 – and if they say, “I wouldn’t go out there today,” believe them and stay home.) Failing that, read some Jack London (“To Build a Fire” is a classic for a reason), or some Laura Ingalls Wilder (The Hard Winter), and take a moment to listen to the ballad of Frozen Charlotte.
The current snow depth, as indicated by the height of the snow cap on the top of our bird feeder:
And it’s still snowing.
At least we should have decent driving weather tomorrow for the trip down to Boskone, and the weather down below for the weekend is supposed to be fair and not too cold.
At least until the driveway gets shoveled clear. Which is going to be a task which is not mine.
And we have more snow predicted for mid-week. Fortunately, Friday is projected to be cold and sunny, because that’s the day we’ll be heading down to Boston for the Boskone sf/fantasy convention. Watch this space for the unified Doyle&Macdonald convention schedule, to be appearing Real Soon Now.
Meanwhile, I have an editing gig to work on, which I have grievously neglected the past two days, because the household was afflicted not only with snow, but with a nasty but fast-moving bug that somehow slipped under this season’s flu-shot radar. (Better last week than this coming weekend, is all I can say.)
Self-publishers and cover designers take note: The Metropolitan Museum of Art has placed “more than 375,000 images” from its online collection into the public domain for free and unrestricted use.
Which is a bit of good news to brighten up what is – at least up here in far northern New Hampshire – a grey and snowy day, in a generally grey and dispiriting season.
Or, what our driveway looked like yesterday morning:
And it snowed some more, after that. And it’s snowing now.
In weather like this, there really isn’t much to do except stay inside at the computer and
listen to the chatter of the road crews on the office scanner work on the various projects currently in hand.
(This is also why the very next editing gig that comes in has got “studded snow tires” already written on its metaphorical forehead.)