August break


Photo by Grace, the weekend before camp.  We are standing in front of the tender in which we left our wedding (photo here), many, many years ago.

For the I’ve-lost-track-of-how-many year in a row I’m going to take August off.  I plan to spend the next month living this vast design a little more than usual.  For the first half, it will be just me and this guy, above.  For the second half, all four of us.

I will be back in September and I hope you will be too!

Happier Hour


Many years ago, my friend Aidan Donnelley Rowley mentioned that she had an idea.  It was to start a salon series of sorts, focused on bringing together smart, thoughtful women and featuring and supporting writers.  I loved the idea, and I still do.  Her Happier Hours have become a phenomenon, and I’ve been fortunate to attend several.

Imagine my delight, then, at hosting my own Happier Hour in honor of Aidan herself.  It’s not a secret that I love her new book, The Ramblers.  I was absolutely thrilled to gather a group of women to meet and talk with Aidan, about novels, about love, about creativity, about practice, about life itself.

It was particularly special to have my thirteen year old daughter join us, sitting on the floor by me (you can see her in the photograph above), listening to Aidan raptly, even asking a question. Later on, the conversation turned to topic of writing about ourselves and others and about walking the line between disclosure and privacy.  Someone asked me how I handle this, and I looked straight at Grace, and answered truthfully that I wonder about it all the time, that I write about my children less and less, and that there’s not one thing I’ve shared on this blog I’d be uncomfortable with either child reading (and they have, much of it).

I learned some new things about The Ramblers on Wednesday night, but more than anything I watched the faces of people I know and those I don’t (I was happy that some people who know Aidan from the ether came to the event, not knowing anyone before they did) as they listened to my friend talk.


One thing I love about Aidan’s Happier Hours is her very explicit goal of supporting writers by buying books.  I was happy that we sold many books at my house (and thank you to Porter Square Books, my favorite independent bookseller, for helping in that effort).  I am a devout library fan, but I also buy books, I assure you.  I preorder books I’m really excited about (most recently, Annie Dillard’s The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old and New) and hope you do too.

Aidan and our mutual, adored agent Brettne Bloom both slept over at our house.  The late night sitting around the kitchen, laughing about videos, talking about politics, and catching up on matters huge and tiny was one of my favorite parts of the event.  Aidan and I share a deep interest in and commitment to the topic of female friendship in adulthood (most recently we discussed the fascinating piece in the New York Times What Women Find in Friends That They May Not Get From Love).  Having Aidan and Brettne at my house, in my kitchen, was like watching a subject that means a tremendous amount to me come to life. I’ve written a lot about the friends I love most, whom I cherish beyond words (and one of them was in attendance on Wednesday night) – the native speakers to whom Ann Patchett refers in Truth & Beauty– and I’m fortunate to count both Brettne and Aidan in that group.

As I said on Wednesday night last week, Aidan’s beautiful book, The Ramblers, calls to mind over and over again one of my favorite quotes, by Tolkien: not all those who wander are lost.  Having Aidan and Brettne here was a reminder both that wandering can be a rich and interesting way through life and that one of our most important decisions is who we amble beside.



Word of the year 2016

In 2011 and 2012 I chose words of the year.  Then, in 2013, 2014, and 2015, I struggled to do so.  The struggle made me realize that I hadn’t chosen words in 2011 and 2012 so much as been chosen by words.  Trust and light just bubbled up in my consciousness, made themselves known as themes and priorities and metaphors.

This year that happened again.  My 2016 word of the year presented itself to me over and over in the last few weeks.


I’ve written about ease before.  The word “ease” is part of a loving kindness meditation I have repeated to myself many, many times.  In June 2012 I wrote of ease:

That’s what I want.  Everything else I say I want can be folded into this single thing.  I want to live with ease.  To let the clouds of my emotions and reactions skid across the sky of my spirit without overly attaching to them.  To let the weights of sorrow and joy, which are part of my life in near-equal measure, slide off my shoulders rather than staggering under them.

And yes.  That’s what I want.  Everything I wrote then, three and a half years ago, resonates now, even more brightly, with the undeniable urgency of something I need to acknowledge, embrace, and own.  This is what I want.

I’ve mused many times on the invisible calculus that brings certain quotes and poems to mind at certain times.  It’s similar to the way I can’t forget the case of my oft-abandoned novel, the fact that my default tense in writing is present, the strange timing that causes me to look out the window at the moment of sunset more days than not.  All of these are glimpses of the vast design, as far as I’m concerned.  The subconscious mind brings things to us without us logically understanding how or why, but their importance cannot be denied.  I love these experiences, these ways that something beyond our comprehension glints through the fabric of our lives, this reminder that there’s something out there larger and more complex than we can possibly imagine.

I believe that is at work in my sensing of the word ease wherever I turn.  And ease is inextricably linked, for me, to another phrase that I think and write about often: let go.  It has to do with releasing my white knuckle grip on my own experience, with continuing to relinquish my attachment to how I thought it would be, with accepting the ways that my particular wiring and wide-open heart predisposes me to both heartache and joy.

So, with wide open eyes, arms, and hearts, and a deep wish for ease, here we go, into 2016.

Do you have a word?  What is it?

Do people still read blogs? And, NINE years.


Our dessert at least week’s 15 year anniversary dinner.  Appropriate also to celebrate a 9 year blogging anniversary!

Tomorrow, September 15, marks nine years I’ve been blogging here.  Can we talk about that?  NINE YEARS.  No wonder I often feel like a broken record.  But still, I have no plans to stop.

Last month, I read Vikki Reich and Nina Badzin‘s pieces (Nina’s inspired by Vikki’s) about whether or not people still read blogs with interest.  I have certainly observed a decreasing amount of engagement here, and a flattening readership.  But I still read blogs myself.  Every day.  I still miss Google Reader, but I read my newsblur subscriptions every single day.  And the truth is, as I’ve written before, after years of feeling a lot of pressure and urgency around writing a book, I now think that what I am first and foremost is a blogger.  Writer, maybe.  Book writer, I’m not sure.  Blogger, yes.

I love blogging.  Writing here is a habit I have no intention of breaking or changing.  I love the engagement with readers, the other writers I’ve gotten to know through the blogosphere, and am regularly deeply moved by what I read on other blogs.  For me, the answer to the question of “are blogs dead” is an adamant no.  Blogs are changing, no question, but they are still relevant to me.  Maybe that conclusion makes me a dinosaur, but it’s definitely the one I draw.

I do share Nina’s view on list posts, as well as her admission that I’ve written them (probably my best-known piece is a list: 10 things I want my daughter to know before she turns 10 – as an aside, that daughter is about to turn 13!).  In general, that’s not my jam, and I don’t love the way the bloggy world has embraced that kind of writing.  As is true in many aspects of my life, in this respect I seem to have OMOF (the opposite of FOMO) – no worries at all about missing out.

Sometimes, though, I feel like I’m writing about the same things over and over again.  Maybe it’s a spiraling, a getting deeper into a topic as I continue to circle around it.  But maybe it’s a being stuck, too.  I honestly don’t know.  Perhaps it’s just part of the deal when writing regularly for nine straight years.

Nine straight years.  For a long time, I celebrated this blog birthday by asking you what things you would be interested in hearing about.  I don’t exactly know why I stopped, but I’d like to revisit that request today.

I’d be grateful if you’d share a few things you’d be interested in my writing about.

I look forward to hearing from you.  And thank you, thank you, Vikki and Nina, for getting me thinking. I know I’m thankful for both of your blogs and hope you keep writing.  As long as you do, I’ll be reading.


An August hiatus


Last weekend on the ferry on our way home from Shelter Island.  I might do a little of this – napping, resting, closing my eyes – over the next month.

Like I did last year, I plan to take August off from blogging.  I plan to spend the month living the vast design, and really paying attention to it, and I look forward to returning in September!  I hope you will be here.