The year before last was hard. The deaths of two parents, pain and illness
for others ... the list seemed to go on. The wonderful interlude that often
happens in families, an extended length of time when nothing too too bad seems
to happen, ended. And I was as surprised as any character in my novels at how
completely inadequate I was to the job of facing down grief. It took more
months than I can recall to come out of the stupor of doing little and thinking
less. Long evenings were spent staring at the sky you see pictured here,
wondering how such beauty could coexist with such agony. I couldn't write.
Not even a newsletter. If this section of my website remained blank,
it was because my mind remained that way as well.
Grief never completely ends, but eventually it gets healed over by the
happy events that make everyone's life worth living: births and weddings
and dinners with friends; birthdays and holidays and ... did I mention holidays?
The magical part of the Christmas season is that it always, without fail,
brings back the magic. The pain of Christmas forever Past can be searing,
but somehow, somewhere, a small glow of comfort remains. When we're ready,
we can easily fan it into a flame again.
The last year did not produce a book (I'm still working on that),
but it did produce some wonderful memories, all of them, predictably,
centered around family and friends. We spent Christmas of 2004 with
my "Seattle Sister" and her family, and cooked and baked and cooked
and baked and generally ran around like chickens with their heads cut off.
We did the Wonderful Holiday Thing despite our recent losses,
and no one had a sharp word or an unkind look for anyone.
There were pensive moments and there were sad ones, but most of all,
there was Christmas with family.
During our Seattle visit, my teenaged niece managed to ease me into a
paddock where I got my first really up-close and personal look at, well,
a crowd of horses. The huge animals snuggled around me, and I fancied
myself a regular Horse Whisperer until my sister pointed out that I was
hiding carrots for them in my parka pockets. But still. They liked me
and I liked them. Mission accomplished.
In February, we tried out being snowbirds. Many Rhode Island residents
hide in Florida when the nor'easters begin to blow. We thought that maybe
they knew something that we did not, so we rented a place for a month and
drove down with our two cats. Here's a photo of them, adjusting the way
only cats can to the trauma of a new experience. Do they look traumatized?
(Not here, they don't, but you should have heard them whenever we hit a
stretch of bumpy highway.) Anyway, we liked Florida well enough, and
I'm pretty sure we'll like it even more in the future because we have
very dear friends there ... but for now, masochistic New Englanders we
Eventually came summer. My husband, an Aquarian if ever there was one,
lives for it. We scraped and sanded and painted the boat, and when we were done,
we launched Sunrise and
sailed it around New England again. The cats, you'll notice, adapt the
same survival tactic to this mode of travel as they do to the vehicular
kind: close your eyes and hope it ends.
In August, family came out for their Almost A Month at the Shore.
Being together in the summer is one of the things we all live for,
and this summer was no exception. In fact, as I get older and realize
just how fleeting our time together is, my joy has a kind of salty
sting to it. May we never get too old to boogie-board,
if only in our hearts.
When family is visiting, we watch vintage movies together; it's one
of our odd traditions. Well, you can't watch vintage movies without
eating vintage candy, can you? And so the trek to Goodies by the Sea,
a fantasy world of candy and chocolate that's located on one of the
wharves in Newport. Here's John, posing with his own stash of treats.
You've heard the expression "Like a kid in a candy store"?
Now you know where it comes from.
Our well-used roof deck, where so much of the year is spent in both deep
reveries and animated talk, is covered in snow now. We've crowned it
with a tree dressed in Christmas jewelry; it's a beacon of wild color
shining gaudily among the more proper white lights of Newport's signature
From our house to yours ... the blessings of Christmas to you all.