Warmth, Comfort and Beauty

The Parkinson’s Comfort Project held its second annual Piecing for Parkinson’s Day on February 7.

The term “rousing success” doesn’t quite cover the wonderful turnout we had of kind, generous, creative, funny, skilled quilters who came to sew from Vermont and New Hampshire.

Not all of the projects that were started that day are complete but I wanted to show off some of the quilts donated to the Parkinson’s Comfort Project that day. So sit back and enjoy the Show and Tell!

2015-5016 quilt NLQG community service
Quilt pattern “Six of One” developed by Lynn Wheatley and Erma Hastings, quilt made by members of the Northern Lights Quilt Guild
2015-5019 quilt Susan Bellis for web
Quilt by Susan Bellis


2015-5020 quilt Lynn Bohi for web
Quilt by Lynn Bohi


2015-5023 quilt Cindy Moran for web
Quilt by Cindy Moran in “Six of One” pattern


2015-5024 quilt Jane Busky-PfP
Quilt by Jane Busky using quilt-as-you-go technique


2015-5027 quilt Bruce Leach for web
Quilt by Bruce Leach


Something Good to Read

If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. -Toni Morrison, novelist, editor, professor, Nobel laureate (b. 18 Feb 1931)
Norwich book sale 1 for web
Every reader has a unique sets of tastes in books. I like mystery novels with great characters and minimal violence. (Yeah, I know, it’s some sort of oxymoron to have a taste for books that have their genesis in violence but not want violence in them.) Louise Penny, Donna Leon, and Laurie King’s odes to Sherlock Holmes are great examples of this type of book.

There are gems of the 19th century that I read and re-read such as Jane Eyre, the Forsythe Saga, Age of Innocence, Middlemarch, and absolutely anything ever penned by Jane Austen.

I love well-written books about nature such as the Outermost House or Botany of Desire, PrairieErth and anything by Robert MacFarlane.

Generally speaking, I find fantasy novels too much alike but there are a handful I love such as Watership Down, all of Tolkien, the Gormenghast Trilogy, the seven Harry Potter books, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell.

There are great nonfiction titles such as West with the Night, All the President’s Men, Anthony Lukas’s Nightmare, How the Irish Saved Civilization, and just about anything by Michael Lewis, Malcolm Gladwell, and Karen Armstrong.

My pronounced attachment to books is based on their authors’ ability to transport me into another realm whether it’s understanding the chicanery of Richard Nixon, journeying through Middle Earth or walking the still-wild places of Great Britain.

But if you gave me just a few words to explain what I really WANT from a book, it’s this: A collection of words that entertains, informs, makes me feel and think in a way that gives me the sense of being one with the author. And since my reading time is pretty much confined to just before I go to sleep at night, I don’t want anything that roils my dreams.

Hence my prohibition about too much violence in mystery novels.

In spite of the longish list I have here, I find this type of book somewhat difficult to find. Part of that is the fact that I write so I’ve become very picky about what I ingest when it comes to words.

Badly edited or badly produced books just set my teeth on edge.

This is part of the reason why I created my Carding, Vermont novels. I know there are other folks with similar reading tastes to mine so I wanted to add to the collection of (hopefully) good books to read on their bedside tables. I have a hunch that Toni Morrison has the same issue when it comes to what she reads which is why we all get to read Beloved.

The Outermost House

I love introducing old favorites to new friends, and Henry Beston’s The Outermost House is truly one of my old favorites.
Outermost House cover
This is one of those books that can scoop you up into the past and yet feels so present-day, a miraculous feat for a book that’s coming up on its 90th anniversary. (It was first published in 1928 by Henry Holt and Company, one of the many good publishers that no longer exists.)

The subtitle of this wondrous book is A Year on Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod, and if you have ever lived or loved this sandy arm of life on the Atlantic Ocean—or a sandy stretch of anywhere on an ocean—then you will appreciate Beston’s journal.

He explains at the outset that he never started out to stay for a year in a very small cottage he called the Fo’castle that he had built for him on an amazing stretch of land that he called Eastham Beach, a stretch of sand that is now part of the National Seashore preserve. Beston just wanted a place to stay when he visited the Cape.

But the beauty of the place—the open sea, large dunes, a marsh, the lights of Eastham across a small bay, the birds and the ever-changing light—enchanted the man who had lived through World War I.

Beston turned out to be an acute observer and a gifted writer. His prose is so elegant in its simplicity, it is difficult to imagine any of his sentences one word longer or shorter.

Here’s a passage he wrote about birds in winter, a topic close to my heart at the moment as I spend my mornings eating breakfast with goldfinches in their winter green plumage, plucky chickadees, families of cardinals, tufted titmice, juncos, woodpeckers, brown creepers, and saucy blue jays.


It is early on a pleasant winter afternoon, and I am returning to the Fo’castle through the meadows, my staff in my hand and a load of groceries in a knapsack on my back. The preceding day brought snow flurries to us out of the northwest, and there are patches of snow on the hay fields and the marshes, and, on the dunes, nests of snow held up off the ground by wiry spears of beach grass bent over and tangled into a cup. Such little pictures as this last are often to be seen on the winter dunes; I pause to enjoy them, for they have the quality and delicacy of Japanese painting. There is a blueness in the air, a blue coldness on the moors, and across the sky to the south, a pale streamer of cloud smoking from its upper edge. Every now and then, I see ahead of me a round, blackish spot in the thin snow; these are the cast-off shells of horseshoe crabs, from whose thin tegument the snow has melted. A flock of nervous shore larks, hidden under an old mowing machine, emerge running, take to their wings, and, flying south fifty yards, suddenly drop and disappear into the grass.

Heading Down to the Final Edit

This morning, I finished making all of the corrections to Thieves of Fire that were noted by my proofreaders.

Proof copy of Thieves of Fire, the 2nd Carding, Vermont novel
Proof copy of Thieves of Fire, the 2nd Carding, Vermont novel

This part always makes me a bit nervous because it’s so easy to introduce another error while you’re correcting.

So I go slowly and carefully.

Now comes the fun (to me) part—formatting the interior of the book.

When this is finished, Thieves of Fire will have reached the stage known as “first pages.” In other words, it’s the first time Thieves will assume the shape it will have when it’s finally printed on paper and bound in a cover.

So what’s this final edit all about? I read the entire manuscript aloud, one chapter at a time, as I paste them into InDesign. Once that’s done, I have to let it go.

I think of this last read-aloud as the final smoothing of the words on the page. It’s where I chuck the unnecessary verbiage, making my sentences as lean and readable as I know how.

Readable is the key word here because editing is all about the reader. So is text formatting and cover creation.

All about the reader, first, last and everything in between.

Once this is done, the cover will be finished and it’s off to the printer we go. As soon as I do that (after a few moments of whooping and cheering), I’ll move onto to finishing my next books and continue on the Carding short story series.


I set myself the task of binding 16 quilts by the end of January, which is tomorrow.

(Now where did that month go?)

All but one of these gems is destined to be given away through the Parkinson’s Comfort Project.

That 16th one is actually the first quilt I ever made for my Mom. The binding came off when it was washed and I promised my sister I’d put it back together again so she can have it.

Today, I’m down to three quilts.

Whew!! I think I’m gonna make it.
Piles of quilts for PCP for web

Writing About Summer in the Middle of Winter

Coastal New England is digging out of the worst blizzard to hit that area so far this century.

(Wow, doesn’t that make it seem so hyper?)

In the meantime, it is very COLD up heyah in Vermont. So I am delighted to be spending the day writing about one of my favorite summertime activities, kayaking on the quiet waters of the Upper Valley for Upper Valley Life magazine.

Here are some of the pictures my husband Jay and I have taken in our favorite spots over the past couple of years.

Grafton Pond-single spider web for web

Hunting heron 2 for web

Jay and Goldie through culvert--Goose Pond for web

Loons 13 for web

Two turtles in the sun for webWoodward-pitcher plant close up 2 for web

Watership Down and Journey to Ixtlan

I believe that we shape our destinies through our choice of thoughts and actions.

I also believe that living this way is difficult but worth striving for.

Still one of the most influential books I've ever read
Still one of the most influential books I’ve ever read

And then there’s the self-awareness problem. How many of us can foresee the outcome of tomorrow embedded in the decisions we make today?

Here are two of my favorite takes on this eternal dilemma The first is a quote from my favorite book by Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan. This quote has been part of my refrigerator art for more than 30 years and I read it often.

In a dramatic tone, Don Juan stated that well-being was a condition one had to groom, a condition one had to become acquainted with in order to seek it.

“You don’t know what well-being is, because you have never experienced it,” he said.

I disagreed with him. But he continued arguing that well-being was an achievement one had to deliberately seek. He said the only thing I knew how to seek was a sense of disorientation, ill-being, and confusion.

He laughed, mockingly and assured me that in order to accomplish the feat of making myself miserable I had to work in a most intense fashion, and that it was absurd I had never realized I could work just the same in making myself complete and strong.

“The trick is what one emphasizes,” he said. “We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

The amount of work is the same. That’s the concept that blew me away when I first read those words in my middle twenties. Been doing that work in fits and starts ever since.

Here’s the second instance of choice in action from one of my favorite books of all time, Watership Down by Richard Adams.
Watership Down cover
For those of you not familiar with this seminal fantasy novel, Watership Down is a place in England, the destination for a group of rabbits who are refugees from their original burrow. Like all refugees, they are seeking a new home, a place to live in peace.

One of the ways that Adams enchants is by describing the world from the point of view of these small creatures. They have their own spiritual system, their own myths, and he even sprinkles in rabbit terms for items in our daily lives such as hrdu-du-du for car (which sounds like the high and low sounds of an engine when you first turn it on) and raka which could delicately be described as rabbit pellets.

Anyway, our small band of heroes have a ton of adventures which culminate in their having to defend their new home from a rival burrow led by the biggest villain of the piece, General Woundwort. (Isn’t that a great name!)

The hero rabbits are led by a wise soul named Hazel. On the eve of what will be the climactic battle for control of Watership Down, Hazel tries to reason with the General, pointing out that there was plenty for all and no need for killing.

The following is a description of General Woundwort’s reaction to Hazel’s suggestion, and it is, I think, one of the best descriptions of how our choices dictate the course of our lives. By the way, you need to know that Hazel was wounded and is now lame.

At that moment, in the sunset on Watership Down, there was offered to General Woundwort the opportunity to show whether he was really the leader of vision and genius which he believed himself to be, or whether he was no than a tyrant with the courage and cunning of a pirate.

For one beat of his pulse the lame rabbit’s idea shone clearly before him. He grasped it and realized what it meant. The next, he had pushed it away from him.

The sun dipped into the cloud bank and now he could see clearly the track along the ridge, leading to the beech hanger and the bloodshed for which he had prepared with so much energy and care.

“I haven’t time to sit here talking nonsense,” said Woundwort. “You’re in no position to bargain with us. There’s nothing more to be said.”

If you haven’t read these books, may I recommend them to your bedside table?

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