All You Need Is Love(joy)

SH-Love 1A lot of small towns and villages develop local celebrations that are unique unto themselves. It could be a snowshoe volleyball tournament or a raft race just after the ice goes out in a river or an annual fair.

There are a couple of this type of event in Carding but none is so quirky and special as the annual celebration of Oona Lovejoy’s birthday.

Oona was the drama teacher in Carding High School in the 1960s. She also wrote plays and started a youth theater program that’s still going strong.

She was a larger-than-life gal with a special way of celebrating her February birthday. This year, Oona would be delighted to know she’s about to have an impact on town meeting.

Enjoy!

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“What do you mean, they didn’t like your sewing box?” Clark Underwood’s eyebrows kissed one another in the center of his forehead. “That’s the most absurd thing I’ve heard in a long time.”

“I know what you mean,” his wife, Brenda, said as she divested her arms and hands of the accoutrements of winter—purse, gloves, car keys, scarf, hat, and the offending sewing box. “You should have seen all those women in the guild, groveling to this G.G. Dieppe. It was…disturbing.”

She started to stuff her gloves into her jacket pockets when her fingers touched a piece of paper. “Oh, and then there’s this.” She handed her husband a pink brochure. “I found it stuffed under my windshield wiper.”

Clark smoothed the page out on their kitchen table in order to read it out loud:

Attention members of the Mount Merino Landowners Association

You will join the effort to bring class and efficiency to Carding, Vermont when you attend the kickoff meeting of the “G.G. Dieppe for Selectwoman” campaign at the Mount Merino Golf Club on Friday evening at 7:00 p.m.

It is critical that the rights of our landowners association be recognized and the significant contributions we make to the town—both financial and cultural—be considered in all local affairs.

G.G. Dieppe will make that happen with your support.

This is a compulsory meeting for people involved in this critical campaign which she feels should include all Mount Merino members.

There will be a cash bar. Please bring snacks to share.

Clark looked up, his eyebrows now reaching for his hairline, as he started to laugh. “This can’t be serious.”

Brenda dropped her jacket on a hook inside their hall closet door. “I assure you it is. Pour me a glass of wine, would you, and I’ll tell you about my night.”

As these husband-and-wife chat things go, Brenda gave this one an A+. Clark surprised her by voicing his own doubts about living among the golf-obsessed on Mount Merino. She was glad to hear that. In addition, they both realized they didn’t know enough about the town of Carding and needed to spend more time in the village.

Even though they appreciated the free-from-maintenance lifestyle that you get in a condo, they wondered out loud if they would be happier living in a house in town, complete with the fuss and bother of a lawn and gardens.

“So, are you going to take this Reverend Lloyd’s advice and seek out this Edie Wolfe?” Clark asked as they got ready for bed.

“Oh definitely,” Brenda said.

Her reply made Clark smile as he fell asleep because he knew what happened when his wife got riled up, and it was so much fun to watch.

The next morning, it took Brenda only a matter of minutes to locate the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts, and she was rather embarrassed she had not visited it before. She’d always liked Victorian architecture with its gingerbread details and beveled-glass windows, and this place had it in spades.

The front door was heavy but swung open easily, proof that someone paid attention to the important things. Brenda gasped with pleasure as she stepped into the art-filled foyer of the home built by Joseph Stillman Croft. She hadn’t expected to see work like this in such a small town.

But the momentary pleasure was tempered when a familiar song boomed over the sound system.

“All you need is love.”

Ba ba ba ba bah.

“All you need is love, love,

Love is all you need.”

Upstairs, several voices belted out the refrain of the Beatles’ song followed by laughter.

Suddenly a woman came sprinting down the hallway carrying a box filled with colored papers of all descriptions, the pair of glasses perched on her head matching the pair of glasses perched on her nose.

“Hello!” she called up the stairs. “I could use a hand down here.”

And then Edie Wolfe noticed Brenda. “Oh, sorry about this. You caught us in the middle of chaos.”

The sound of feet cascaded downstairs. “Sorry, Gram,” a tall young woman, all arms and legs, said as she scooped the box from the older woman’s hands. “We got carried away. We love singing along with those old songs.”

Edie and Brenda both winced, noticed the other’s expression, and then laughed together.

“I’ll never get used to hearing that music called ‘old,’” Edie said, stretching out her hand. “I’m Edie Wolfe, the Academy’s executive director. How may I help you?”

Brenda liked the feel of the other woman’s handshake, firm, warm, and no-nonsense. Too many women have flabby ways of using this greeting.

“Brenda Underwood. Reverend Lloyd sent me,” she said. “Well, in a way he did.”

She gestured up the staircase where the colored paper had disappeared. “Seems as if you have something special going on here.”

Edie scoped out the other woman, matching what she saw with the description furnished by her friend the priest in a late evening phone call the night before. Brenda Underwood didn’t look like a spy from Mount Merino (whatever that might look like) so she decided to trust Gordon’s instincts.

The music started up again but this time, the volume was lower.

“It’s winter school break,” Edie said, “and the Academy hosts an annual week of open studio days in preparation for Oona Lovejoy’s birthday.”

“Oona Lovejoy? Is that some artist I’ve never heard of?”

Edie laughed. “Well, Oona was an artist but not the kind you’re thinking of. She was the drama teacher at our high school in the 1960s, and the founder of our youth theater program. She was quite a character, and sooner or later, everyone in Carding was touched by her.”

Edie pointed down the hallway toward her office, and Brenda noticed that its walls were covered with signs and posters all designed around one word: Love.

“When she was here, Oona celebrated her birthday by papering the town with love, literally. She stuck ‘Love’ signs everywhere and the idea caught on. Now it’s an annual February event.”

Edie smiled at her guest. “Why don’t you join me in a cup of tea so we can have a conversation about your guild meeting last night. I understand there were some absurd objections to your sewing box.”


You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted,Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on May 18, June 15, 2018. And yes, it will be available on Amazon.com.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

If you would like to get in touch, my email address is: Sonja@SonjaHakala.com.

LiWD cover 5

 

 

Signs of the Times

We’ve been following Brenda Underwood’s journey through the labyrinth of small details that make up the town of Carding, Vermont.

This week, Brenda comes down from the condo complex where she lives on Mount Merino to introduce herself to Edie Wolfe, the executive director of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

What a change it is from the dour tone of the Carding Quilt Guild meeting from the night before!

Here’s a preview of tomorrow’s Carding Chronicle. Enjoy!

SH-Love 1

Puzzle Me, Puzzle You

Death in the DalesMy Mom handed me my first Nancy Drew mystery when I eleven or twelve. I was immediately hooked and devoured all of the “kid” mysteries that were published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate at the time. (In addition to Nancy Drew, these included the Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins among others.)

In a way, these types of books are akin to the Harry Potter series, fast reads with zigzagging plot lines that encouraged reading among the younger set.

In addition to pulling me into the world of books (from which I have yet to emerge), the Nancy Drew books introduced me to the mystery novel, and even more specifically, the subset of that genre known at the “cozy.”

To the uninitiated, it may seem strange to call novels that center around murder “cozies” but within the genre, the term is used to describe the degree of explicitness in a particular novel. In a cozy, death happens off stage, and usually to a character that nobody (including the reader) likes at all. Sex is conducted discreetly, behind (literally) closed doors, and profane language is pretty much non-existent.

In a cozy, the puzzle and the main character are front and center.

Over the years, I’ve come to call this type of novel my “schlocky books,” a term of endearment for a book that keeps me mentally engaged while not demanding too much of me emotionally. In other words, perfect to read in that twenty minutes before you fall asleep at night or on a bus or in the dentist’s office.

Which brings me around to author Frances Brody’s series of novels featuring a woman named Kate Shackleton.

Brody is British, and her books take place near her hometown of Leeds in the years following World War I. This era, long neglected by genre fiction writers, has become prime real estate in the past few years with books by Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and others.

Brody has had a long writing career, mostly in radio, and it shows in her prose—clean and to the point. This book, A Death in the Dales, is the second novel of hers that I’ve read, the first being Death of an Avid Reader. (Yep, I was suckered in by the title.)

I was unsure, at first, whether these books were going to hold their own, mostly because the writing was deceptively simple, and I wondered if they would turn out to be too American in flavor (which I define as all plot, no character, and all boring).

I was pleasantly surprised, however, and found myself wanting to read a second as soon as I had finished the first, mostly because her minor characters are interesting, her murder victims are not stereotypes, she maintains more than one story line at a time, and her plots twist just enough to keep me guessing.

Brody mixes in interesting bits of history about Leeds, a city that she clearly loves, and I find them a good place to get lost in for the twenty minutes before I fall asleep.

Thought you might too.

Sew and Sew, Part the Last

SH-Edies houseToday, we reach the conclusion of this part of Carding’s town meeting saga.

Dismayed by G.G. Dieppe’s starchy disdain at her first meeting of the Carding Quilt Guild, newcomer Brenda Underwood is in the midst of a strategic retreat when she takes a wrong turn…and ends up in the right conversation with Reverend Gordon Lloyd, pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

This chance meeting could have meaningful ramifications, not just for Brenda but for the whole town of Carding.

You can catch up on parts 1,2 and 3 of “Sew and Sew” right here, if you so desire.

Glad you could stop by. It’s good to see you.

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Brenda Underwood is one of those New Englanders who left church-going in the past long ago. So she was surprised to discover that the balm of sanctuary still held a place in her heart.

Or soul, as Reverend Lloyd might have put it.

She found it soothing to sit in the almost-dark of St. John’s Episcopal Church with the priest, quietly discussing her recent move to Carding, her doubts about living on a golf course, and her disappointment in the tenor of the Carding Quilt Guild meeting, from which she was hiding.

For his part, Gordon Lloyd did what he did best. He listened to the mood of Brenda’s confidences, doing his best to discern the woman among the words.

She was intelligent. Of that he had no doubt. Brenda’s language sparkled with precision, revealing a mind that revered both logic and emotion. She understood the crux of her dilemma and appreciated the trauma that her move from her beloved Boston to this tiny town in Vermont represented.

“Is the whole town like that?” she asked, nodding her head toward the community hall where the guild was meeting.

Gordon pressed his lips together, thinking fast. Somehow, he sensed that this woman—a stranger until this evening—might represent a way to get out from under the gloom that accompanied G.G. Dieppe wherever she went.

“I am happy to answer your question but first allow me to ask you one,” he said.

“Okay.”

“You just met Mrs. Dieppe this evening, am I right?”

“Yes.”

“Would you be so kind as to describe how you see her?” Gordon asked.

Now it was Brenda’s turn to assess the priest. “Let me guess, she’s a relatively new member of this congregation, right?”

“Yes.”

“And you’ve noticed a change since she arrived?”

One corner of Gordon’s mouth curved up in a smile. “Yes, quite a change.”

Brenda nodded. “It’s good to know that things were different before she came here. That’s hopeful.”

Gordon shifted around in his seat, mindful that the cushions in the choir loft where they sat really needed to be replaced if only to preserve the sanctity of his backside. “I’m not a quilter. The closest I come to a craft is writing my sermons for Sunday. But there are a lot of makers in Carding—they’re a big part of the town’s heritage—so I have a familiarity with fabric and color and how blocks are put together. So tell me, if G.G. Dieppe was a house block, what color would it be?”

Brenda’s whole face snapped-to with surprise and she blinked at the priest. “Well, two colors, actually. Black and white.”

Gordon nodded. “I thought you might say that. Come with me for a moment. I want to show you something that I think will answer your question about what the town of Carding is like away from the golf course and people such as G.G. Dieppe.”

He hopped down from the loft, and switched on a light that revealed a short hallway. “Edie’s not a member of my congregation though she does attend from time to time. But we are friends. In fact, she was one of the first people I met when I came here. She once told me that I need more color in my life, especially at this time of year when everything is…black and white. So from time to time, she shows up at my door with what she calls ‘a color thing.’

He pointed to a small wallhanging. “This is her latest, and I think if Edie Wolfe was a house block, this is what she would look like.”

Brenda gasped and then began to laugh. Edie’s house was anything but black and white. Its roof was an electric pink fabric festooned with vivid leaves. Its windows were lime green with yellow bubbles. Hot red and green stripes erupted from a blue chimney, and the grass growing by the front door was a moving sea of phosphorescent hues.

“Do you like it?” Gordon asked.

“I do. And I want to meet the woman who made it.”

“Her house in on the green, opposite the Crow Town Bakery, which is owned by her daughter and son-in-law, by the way,” Gordon said. “But the best place to find Edie during the day is at the Carding Academy.”

Suddenly they heard meeting-breaking-up noises coming from the community hall. Brenda turned to the priest, and shook his hand. “Thank you. I think I’m going to duck out now but I am going to follow your suggestion.”

“Good. Let me walk you to the door.” Gordon’s smile was a bit bigger now. “There’s one more thing I think you should know.”

“What’s that?”

“Mrs. Dieppe is running for the open seat on the Carding select board, and some of her plans for the town are, shall we say, quite controversial. Edie is opposed to all of them.” Gordon swung the side door open, and Brenda realized she could get to her car before any of the other guild members emerged from the building.

“Really?” Brenda’s voice and eyebrows rose as she pulled on her gloves. “It sounds like this could be interesting.”


You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Light in Water, Dancing, will go on sale on May 18, 2018. And yes, it will be available from Amazon.com

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.