Thursday, August 22, 2013

The more things change . . .



the more things change. 






Yes I know that’s not the way the adage goes, but I’m rewriting it.  At least for now.  I’m in the middle of my last week in what used to be my apartment on Cuttyhunk Island.  The building is a rental now but I took the downstairs for the entire summer because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye yet.

Now it’s time.  
We brought a few things home in the car after our July visit, (my dad's fishing pole, a couple of pictures, a few mementos) and I have to decide what to leave (besides a couple of boxes of my books) in the blue tote that’s going to stay in my sister’s basement.  One tote.  Mostly filled with books.

There is nothing I can’t leave behind left in the apartment.  Anything I couldn’t bear to never see again has already gone to our new house in Virginia.  All I’m dealing with is the practical; what would I really like to have in whatever place I stay in next year?  

When I rented back my apartment this year I thought I’d be spending the whole season here, spring summer and fall.  I hadn’t planned on suddenly ending up with a house in the middle of Lexington Virginia that needed furniture and fences and decks and porches and so on.  The upshot is, I haven’t spent much time here in the summer.  Not nearly enough.

And yet I’m not taking this place again next year.  I’m not going to tie myself down.  I probably won’t be here more than a few weeks anyway, to do a couple of readings and hawk my new book.
Surprisingly, I’m okay with that.  I think I’ve finally said goodbye to this house, and what living here meant.

  It gets easier, I find.  It took me years to say goodbye to the Allen House.

But things change, and change, and change again. 
the poplars at turn of century
The Allen House, now a private home.

 And you get used to it, hopefully.  And you move on.  Again, hopefully.  Sometimes you even grow a little bit.

When I left Cuttyhunk the first time I didn’t return for eight years.  This time, I’m not looking at it as leaving.

I’m just going to take a little break and try spending a summer in the valley I’ve called home for fifteen years.

What a concept.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

So I’ve been reading . . .

a book about the New Bedford docks by Rory Nugent, and it started me thinking about my time on Cuttyhunk Island again.  Nugent’s book is called Down at the Docks, and it’s basically a history of the New Bedford waterfront through the eyes of a number of different people.

Although Cuttyhunk:Life on the Rock was first person anecdotal, many of the things I learned on the island I learned secondhand.  Sometimes third or fourth hand.  Way too many stories to put into one book, and of course there are always stories within the stories.  I’ve often been accused of telling a story by starting with the stories within the stories within the stories, which some people find much too time-consuming to listen to. 

I realize it is difficult to believe people such as these exist.  I have trouble believing it myself.  I mean, if you don’t know the back story and sometimes even the back story’s back story, how can you ever really understand what went on?  Of course, these are probably the same people who skip to the back of the book to see how it ends.  Heathens, I call them.

But I digress.  Astoundingly unusual for me, but it does happen.  

Back to the point – those stories that don’t get told.  What happens to them?
I can’t answer that from a philosophical point of view.  I didn’t take those classes in college.  
In my world the stories that didn’t make it into the book still get told to anyone who asks, some of them in conversation, some in letters or emails.  They used to make their way into poems, often slipping in without my knowledge or permission.  That happens a lot with poems.

But I don’t write poetry anymore.  

So where do the stories slip in?  Right now they’re sliding into my new series of middle readers.  Not the way they are told in my memoir, but pieced together like a quilt; a fragment from this story, a snip of that memory…
 photo A. Hinson
 photo A. Hinson

 (For example, in the book I'm working on now, 2nd in the Summerhood Island series, all three of these buildings have been morphed into one- The Sea Inn.)

A memoir should tell the truth, at least the truth as far as the author can remember it.

But fiction is made of a different cloth.  It can stretch in any direction, start out with a name or a place and weave more names and places from other times and other memories onto the beginning, into the middle, at the end, around the edges until you have something that resembles a place you have known, or a person you have met The end result is not like any place or anyone real.  Sometimes it's a quilt. Sometimes it's just a raggedy mish-mash. This is fiction.  This is what I’m writing now.  And I have to admit that the freedom  to invent, and re-invent - is lovely.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I got . . .

into a slightly “argumentative“ discussion about coyotes at dinner the other night. Since one of the gentlemen I was having this discussion with had supplied the lovely crab appetizer I was consuming at that very moment and the other gentleman in the discussion was my host, I decided it would perhaps be polite or at least politic  to drop the subject. 

Those of you who know me well might be shocked at this, but then, I am getting older, and perhaps a tad wiser. Instead, I decided to write a blog. Perhaps they won’t read it. In any case, dinner is over.

My new book comes out this fall, as most of you know by now. It’s called Coyote Summer, and the coyotes, if not the good guys, are at least sympathetic and misunderstood. Here are some facts about coyotes most people don’t know: 

Coyotes are also called America’s song dogs. They are extremely adaptable, and as we move into their territory with our cities and suburbs, they continue to survive and thrive on our trash and vermin. Coyotes are found in almost every major city in America.
coyote on Portland's metro system

 It is common for a coyote in winter to take more interest in your canine companion.  From the coyote's perspective, the territory is like a singles bar - "I wonder if that German shepherd would make a nice boyfriend? ... Nah, not my type". 

A coyote is also a curious animal, so just because it stares at you is no cause for alarm.  Chances are excellent, that after curiosity is satiated, the coyote will continue about its business of performing free pest control in your community.
city coyote

Love is their bond. Coyotes often mate for life and "never divorce" - according to the largest urban coyote study in America.
project coyote picture

Coyotes rarely attack humans. Between 1960 and 2006 there were only 159 reported cases of bites across North America. By comparison in 2012 there were 5,000 reported bites by domestic dogs in Cook County, which contains Chicago, alone. 
Nonetheless, in 2009 a young woman was killed by coyotes while hiking in Nova Scotia; scientists do not understand why. One suggestion is that the animals found in eastern America are a coyote-wolf hybrid that hunt more frequently in packs and can take down larger prey.
In America’s cities the key to the coyote’s success is its virtual invisibility, and sightings of the animal during the recent mating season were unusual enough to have been the subject of news reports. This is no accident. Those who watch the beasts say that the coyote is more nocturnal when it lives in cities than when it is in the wild, which has undoubtedly helped its quiet conquest of parts of metropolitan America. Most people do not actually know they have coyotes living in their neighborhood, and conflicts only arise when an individual becomes a problem—perhaps having developed a taste for kitchen scraps. 
Once known as the “ghosts of the plains” coyotes are increasingly known as the “ghosts of the cities”. 

For tons of coyote information go to

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Here I am . . .


Back on “the Rock” again, after a hiatus of less than a month.

3 ½ weeks of decision making about the new house, leaving others to do the actual physical work. 

Deborah to install curtain rods and shades, hang said curtains, install my spice rack, unpack and set up numerous and assorted fans, portable air conditioners, dehumidifiers, bookshelves, Orlando and Jack and their assorted sons in laws to rebuild and enlarge the back deck, Everette and his crew to screen in the front porch, Deborah to sand and stain old pieces and turn them into amazing furniture.  

Actually, Deborah supervised most of the work she jobbed out, as well. So what did I do?


A little pruning, garden and yard reclamation, some mulching – oh, yes, and I picked berries and hunted mushrooms and went to farmers markets and walked dogs around town. 

No wonder I am so tired. 

Oh, and I spray-painted a table and some chairs, and Higgins and Jim made the seat covers out of foam and material Deborah ordered.
I have an amazing wife.

She’s home getting ready to teach again after a year’s sabbatical.  I went blueberry picking this morning.

Blueberry cobbler.
5 quarts frozen blueberries
½ cup sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
4 cups white cake mix
2 cups water
Pour blueberries in a 2 inch deep hotel sized pan.  Mix together sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch.  Add mixture to blueberries, mixing in well.  In separate bowl, mix cake mix and water.  Pour over blueberry mixture, spreading evenly.  Bake at 350° for about one hour or until browned evenly.
And this afternoon I went clamming.
 Clams Casino
Stuffing for 3 dozen Littleneck clams
1 cup minced bacon
1 ½ cups onion, finely diced
¼ pound butter
1/3 cup green pepper, diced
¼ cup red pepper, diced
¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs
Sauté bacon and onion until onion is transparent. Add peppers and sauté till soft.
Add butter and melt, then stir breadcrumbs into the mixture. Remove from heat and chill.
Mound stuffing over the top of each raw clam and bake at 350° until warm throughout.

Tomorrow I’ll get back to work. Honest.

In really exciting news, I got first cover proofs for my middle reader Coyote Summer!. More on that whole writing thing later.