Extra Ordinary

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Small Pup exploring the backyard universe

When we are young, the extraordinary is everywhere. Babies reach for dust motes, sparkling like magic in a stray sunbeam. Toddlers find enchantment in sticks, and stones, and seashells. Shadows hold mysteries, a puddle is an ocean of promise, and every street corner hides a story yet to unfold.

We recently adopted a shelter puppy, which means I’ve been taking endless trips to the backyard in the name of house training. Small Pup is in awe of everything in her newly expanded universe: the crackle of last autumn’s leaves in the woods at the back of our house; the chirp and cheep of crickets and chipmunks and other wild calling things; the dappled play of sunlight through the green boughs.

Our multiple excursions have forced me to slow down, take a break from life, and actually take a good look around me. I’m rediscovering the art of enjoying the details, the little things: early acorns, tiny frogs, the first of the autumn colors in the trees. Last night a small snake — barely a hatchling — slithered past. When it saw us, it froze and raised its head in youthful defiance, until we moved away and it could escape, leaving a rippling trail in the grass.

It takes me back to childhood days I’d thought forgotten. To the tall bushes at the end of my London garden, which I was convinced held a path to a secret world if I could only find the right word, or the right moment, or the right gesture. To games played in the nearby woods, looking for fairies in the quiet places and wondering if the squirrels could be persuaded to talk.

Our young lives are alight with stories of magic doorways and other places: a rabbit hole in the countryside or a space behind a dryer in a big city basement laundry can lead us to a Wonderland of talking playing cards or an Underland of giant roaches and warrior bats. But more than that: when we are small we believe in the possibility of magic and that these imaginary worlds might just be real. We lose that as we grow, and reason and logic begin to prevail.

These stolen moments, out in the backyard with Small Pup listening to the rustle of wildlife in the trees and letting my imagination soar, have been a true gift. I’ve been a little out of sync with my writing lately, and this quiet process of getting back in touch with the enchantment of my childhood days is helping me connect to my own words again. And find the extra in the ordinary.

Brand New Year

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January is well underway, my to-do list is truly terrifying, and the little guilt demon on my shoulder is whispering ‘you haven’t written anything new in over a month’. But you know what? I don’t really care.

I just spent a wonderful three weeks with my parents visiting from Brazil, and my brother and his family visiting from England. The last time we were all together was in 2014!

Late December and early January flew by in a magical haze of good food and too much dessert, of toddler footsteps along the hallway in the mornings, warm hugs, and conversations that lingered long after dinner was cleared away. Messy art projects and even messier baking attempts. Ski slope chatter on a crisp cold morning. Hot chocolate and shared jokes. Memories, new and old, shared around the table and then tucked away to brighten the dark days.

Those of you who have family living far away will understand just how special it is to have your loved ones gathered around even for a short while.

I may be late to the January party, with all those to-do’s threatening to go full avalanche and crush me as I huddle over my laptop, but my mind is beautifully clear, and I’m all fired up and ready to dive into this brand new year. Allowing yourself the luxury of stepping away from it all for a bit can be a huge plus if you look at it as a chance to recharge.

Here’s to a wonderful 2018 for all of us! May this be the year you make your dreams come true.

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Moving On: the teenage years

Yesterday evening my soon-to-be-13-year-old arranged a last-minute movie outing with a couple of school friends. The kind where you’re supposed to drop them off and pick them up afterwards. The first of this kind for him, ever. That same evening, my 11-year-old was invited to a last minute sleepover. So my husband and I were suddenly, unexpectedly, on our own.

There we were, on the sofa in comfortable sweats, considering getting takeout and watching a movie. Then we pulled ourselves together, got changed, and went out for an impromptu dinner date to a local fish restaurant we’d been meaning to try but somehow never got around to. And it was so much fun.

Later, as we sat in the movie house parking lot with cups of steaming Starbucks to wait for our son, we looked at each other. So this was what life was increasingly going to be like from now on. Hot beverages in parking lots at night as we waited to pick our kids up from movies, and pizza, and parties. It was strange, and new, and different.

We held hands like teenagers as we sipped our drinks, and smiled. Yes, it was new, and different, and a little strange. But it was also rather nice. In fact, it was a whole lot of nice.

I can do nice.

September Dreaming

Summer is hard.

Don’t get me wrong; summertime has its charms… But see here, I have kids. And I live in the USA, which means school vacation is a long, long, beastie. So halfway through summer, I was done with summer. My husband is done with summer. Even the kids are done with summer by now. My son has organized and reorganized his school supplies. My daughter’s freaking school bag has been packed for a week!

Can I officially declare summer over, yet?

Much as I enjoy those first lazy days of reading, hanging out with the family, and doing not much else, by now I’m looking forward to the cooler days of September. It’s too hot for gardening, or housework, or anything requiring half a brain.

It’s certainly too hot for writing, even if I wasn’t sure to be interrupted by completely unreasonable requests for lunch or the ever-present, “I’m booooooored.” And then when I answer, “You had friends over yesterday, and the day before that we went to the bookstore and the pool, so how about a videogame or some nice quiet TV, mmmmm?” they look at me as though I’m speaking French. Which perhaps I am, I don’t know, I think my brain shorted out sometime in the early days of August.

Where was I? Oh yeah, September dreaming. Cooler days. Routine. Quiet. Just me and my laptop and my morning cup of tea. Bliss! So come on in, you winds of autumn; enter summer’s house with impunity and blow away those mental cobwebs.

And oh, summer? Would you mind closing the door on the way out? I appreciate it, thanks. See you next year!

Yesterday we spent the day in New York City, celebrating my niece’s 13th birthday. It was a rainy, grey sort of day, with that veiled beauty that comes from a wet and misty sky. This was my first summer visit to the city. Central Park is a whole other beastie when all decked out in seasonal finery, and Battery Park was truly enchanting.

A few snippets of NYC greenery. Enjoy!

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Battery Park wilderness

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Bee garden

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Central Park lilies

My lawn is full of wild violets…

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So pretty. They’re supposed to be ‘lawn undesirables’ but I love them. My neighbors can keep their perfect, labor-intensive lawns; I’ll take violets in spring any day!

Happy Sunday

It’s Sunday. The sun is shining, and up here in the wilds of suburban Connecticut it finally looks like spring. Things are stirring in the earth – stirring, I tell you! And, after several weeks where I could think of nothing but the characters from my most recently completed novel, I have new things stirring in my brain.

I had a long blog post on perseverance planned for today, but you know what? It’s Sunday and the sun is shining. Go enjoy the day, take a long walk or maybe write some new words. Perseverance will still be here tomorrow.

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Wind

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(You can’t really see it from the pics, but it missed the house by a few steps. Well played, wind.)