Tag Archives: Carding Chronicles

Lost—Then Found

SH-lost and foundToday is Thanksgiving. I think it’s the favorite holiday at my house—just family and friends and eating and laughter.

So I know you’ll understand if I repeat a story today because we’re busy making and eating food. Hope you are as well.

This one features Edie Wolfe, the closest thing Carding has to a matriarch (a title that just makes Edie laugh), and the executive director of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

Somehow, the Academy’s lost and found box always ends up in her office.

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, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

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

Enjoy!

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No matter how many times she cleaned out the closet in her office, Edie Wolfe always approached its door with caution.

“We ought to call this the Academy’s catch-all,” she told her dog, Nearly. He tilted his large ears forward with apprehension, remembering the time his person opened the door and he’d been beaned by a basket full of mittens.

Being a smallish dog and feeling no need for outsized bravery under the circumstances, Nearly retreated to a promising patch of sunshine on the braided rug by the bow window that looked out into the woods behind the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts.

“Hmph, smart boy,” Edie said. Then, grasping the closet door handle firmly, she stood to one side and opened it just a few inches.

Inside, things adjusted themselves with faint but ominous sounds. Nearly considered moving out into the hallway but with so many students in the classrooms, the odds of being stepped on were higher than he liked.

Edie peered inside, and then sighed. “It’s the lost and found,” she said. “I wish someone would figure out a better place to put that box.”

She eased the door open, letting the ungainly cardboard box settle slowly to the floor. Once the lost-and-found box landed, it tipped its contents to the floor—single mittens, water bottles, a hair band, a paperback book with a broken binding, two kazoos, a hacky sack, three scarves, and enough boots to see any woman with a size-eight foot through the winter.

“What the…?” Edie grunted as she paired up the sundry footwear—knee-high boots with a set of blue ice-grippers, heavy over-the-ankle boots for serious tramping in the snow, fleece-lined slide-on mocs for short goings-from-here-to-there, and a final pair of rubberized slides for mud season.

“Well, someone must be running around barefoot,” she told Nearly. He raised his head but didn’t bother to move from his sun patch.

“Hi Edie, I was just heading to the post office.” Agnes Findley craned her head around the office door. “Do you need…oh, what have we here? Looks like an L.L. Bean delivery.”

“Yeah, one would think. Look, they’re all the same size,” Edie said.

“Ha, do they fit you?” Agnes asked.

“No, I wish. I’d give them a new home.” Edie smiled at her friend as she stood up. “Where do you suppose the souls of the stuff in a lost and found end up if no one claims them?”

“Probably with the lost luggage at airports. Oh look, there’s my mitten.” Agnes grabbed a blue hand warmer from the pile. “I love these for shoveling because they’re lined. I was really upset when I lost one.”

Edie picked up a black and white scarf. “Need an accessory for that?” she asked. “And can you tell me why this box always ends up in my closet?”

“Because it was in mine, and I didn’t have space for it any more.” Agnes looked sheepish. “Sorry.”

“Hmph, well it’s time to bring this horde out of the dark and into the light,” Edie said as she tossed everything back into the box. “A little artful display in the lobby and a deadline for claiming ought to do it.”

“I’ve got some  twinkly white lights in my office, and there’s that step display in the copy room,” Agnes said as she helped Edie tug the box into the Academy’s lobby. “Let’s give this lot a big send-off.”

An hour later, an artful display of the lost-and-found articles took center stage in the lobby of the Carding Academy of Traditional Arts. The mittens were the first things to be reclaimed, then the slides for a rainy day, and then a scarf was scooped up with a loud “oooh.”

Edie, who was the Academy’s longtime executive director, bustled about her day, answering emails, directing traffic, writing up the class descriptions for the coming winter schedule, and taking Nearly out for a couple of walks.

So she didn’t get back into the lobby until the sun had almost disappeared behind Mount Merino.

“Well, let’s see how we did, shall we?” she asked her dog as they ambled down the hallway. And then she spotted the empty display—no mittens, no scarves, all the shoes and boots gone.

“Hey, that was a success,” Agnes said. But then her face drooped, and she pointed to a plastic tote that stood to one side. Someone had taped a handwritten sign on its side—New Lost and Found.

It held a pair of flip-flops, a plastic watering can, two pink bandanas, some silk sunflowers, a leather-bound notebook, and a gilded pen. The two women sighed as one.

“Can you…?” Edie started to ask.

Agnes shook her head. “Nope, my closet’s full of brochures and catalogs. It’ll have to be you.”

Each of them leaned over, grabbed one side of the tote, and walked it back to Edie’s closet

Mrs. Shakespeare

SH-masksYou 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, Coming Up for Air, will be out later this year.

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

Please share these with your friends, co-workers, and all the family members you like best. I understand they go great with morning coffee.

This week, we find Faye Bennett back in school taking an unexpected class in improvisation. The problem is, Faye likes her life a little more ordered.

Enjoy!

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Faye Bennett did not like masks. It unnerved her when she couldn’t see the ripple of emotions across a face.

Suffice it to say, Halloween was not her favorite holiday, and as for acting and drama classes, well they came in dead last in any competition with any other subject.

So why was she sitting cross-legged on a mat in the high school gym on the first day of school facing a teacher whose last name, don’t laugh, was Shakespeare?

As in Beverly Shakespeare.

Because if there’s anything guaranteed to make Faye Bennett do something she does not want to do, it’s a dare. And this dare had come from her older brother, Wil, which made it especially potent.

“Look Faye, Intro to Improv fulfills one of your humanities requirements, you’ll learn more than you think possible, and Mrs. Shakespeare is really fun,” Wil had said as he watched his sister puzzling over her schedule for the coming fall.

“Nope, no thanks.” Faye picked up the list of optional choices, and scanned it once more, hoping to find some acceptable humanity for her third period slot. But as a budding historian and a (secretly) wannabe writer, she couldn’t find anything she hadn’t already taken.

Except Intro to Improv.

“Why don’t you want to take that class?” Wil asked as he sprawled across their kitchen table in order to watch his sister’s face with greater ease. Wil thought it an important brotherly duty to make her squirm from time to time.

Faye rolled her eyes at him. “It’s hardly useful, is it, learning to be silly in front of a bunch of other people. I’ll just end up feeling stupid.”

“Look, Mrs. Shakespeare…”

“Did she make up that name?” Faye interrupted him. “Or did she decide to go into theater to take advantage of it.”

Wil shrugged. “Does it matter? She’s really cool. Are you afraid you won’t get an A?” Wil asked.

“Hmph, as if.” Faye scooped up her scheduling paperwork. “I just don’t want to waste my time on frivolous stuff like ‘Intro to Improv.’ I’m surprised the school even puts it on the schedule.”

Wil leaned back in his chair. “So you are afraid of not getting an A. Man, wouldn’t that just ruin your report card?”

Faye stormed off toward her bedroom, unwilling to let Wil see the tears in her eyes that his truth-telling had prompted. She slammed the door behind her, and wedged a chair under the knob to keep him out.

Wil tilted his head so he could watch the minute hand spin around the kitchen clock, counting one, two, three. Then he stood up, and quietly padded down the hall until he stood outside Faye’s door. He’d expected to get a rise out her. Otherwise his teasing would have been a waste of time. But her vehement reaction troubled him a little.

He remembered how anxious he’d been in his first Improv class, how he avoided looking at anyone else as they settled on their circled mats in the gym. But his nerves disappeared as soon as Mrs. Shakespeare asked her first question: “Okay, how many of you are cringing inside because you don’t want to make fools of yourselves in front of one another?”

Heads snapped up, and then a few hesitant hands rose in the air.

“Okay. How many of you have known one another for more than a year?”

Lots more hands went up. In fact, Brian Lambert’s hand was the only not raised because he was the newest kid in school at that moment in time.

“So of all you sitting in this circle, the only one who should be nervous is Brian because he hasn’t known any of you for very long.” Beverly then pointed at Wil and Brian. “I see you two walking together in the hallways quite a bit. Would it be correct to say you’re friends?”

The two boys nodded. “Yeah. Totally.”

Beverly looked around, and then said: “Here’s the thing that’s really bothering you—the word no. You all walked in here just like every other class that’s ever walked in here carrying the word no in your heads. No I can’t do this. No I don’t want to look like a fool. No, no, no, no.”

She indicated that she wanted Brian and Wil to stand. “The key to improv is in these simple words—yes and then what. Let me demonstrate.”

She held her hands up, palms facing each other about nine inches apart, and cupped them. “I am holding a basketball.”

Then she moved her hands in and out a couple of times. “Hmm, seems to be soft. What do you think Brian?”

She handed him her “basketball” and Brian took it, moving his hands in and out. “Yeah, I think it could use some air.” He stopped moving, and looked at Mrs. Shakespeare. “Now what?”

She grinned. “You’ve got a basketball that needs air. I know you’re on the school’s team so what do you do with a deflated ball?”

Brian shrugged a little but then turned to Wil. “Hey man, can you hold this while I go get the air pump?”

Wil took the ball, saying “okay” in two long, doubt-filled syllables as he looked at the teacher for clues about what to do next.

She grinned, and said: “Yes and then what?”

With a twist of his face, Wil pushed his hands together as he held the “ball” up to his ear. “I think it’s got a leak.”

Brian leaned in close to listen, and Mrs. Shakespeare let her eyes slide quickly around the room to note that all of her students were now attentive, waiting to see what would happen next.

“Yeah, I think you’re right,” Brian said. “Who’s got the keys to the supply locker so we can get another one?”

A girl named Patty stood up at the back of the class. “I do but let’s see if we can fix this one first. Anyone got a patch kit?”

Wil grinned as he stood outside his sister’s door as he remembered that first class, and how much they had laughed as they tried to fix the deflated “basketball,” creating more and more ludicrous scenarios. He didn’t want Faye to miss it. She could be so rigid sometimes, and he didn’t want her to pass up the chance to learn “the power of yes,” as Mrs. Shakespeare called it.

He knocked softly. “Hey Faye, why don’t you give it a try even if it’s to prove me wrong. If it doesn’t work out, you can drop it and take some other class. They’re always looking for people to fill the seats in physics.”

Fairy Godmothers, Part Two

SH-Murray quiltYou 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, Coming Up for Air, will be out later this year.

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

Please share these with your friends, co-workers, and all the family members that you like best. I understand they go great with morning coffee.

Last week, Chloe Cooper, in search of a future she could believe in, was on a shopping trip in Burlington with her younger sister, Lisa. You couldn’t ask for two sisters more different that Chloe and Lisa Cooper. So while Lisa is lusting after the push-up bras in Cherries Jubilee, Chloe’s off to the library.

If you need to catch up, you can read part one of our Fairy Godmothers’ saga here.


Chloe walked off in the general direction of the library, turned a corner and nearly stumbled over a colorful sandwich board sitting at the entrance to a store. “Learn to quilt today!” the sign read. “No prior experience necessary. Come on in!”

Chloe was inside and seated at a sewing machine before she took another breath. The intense color in the shop, called She’s Sew Fine, dazzled the young woman’s winter-weary eyes. The reds throbbed, the yellows sparked, the purples pulsed, and all of the greens made her yearn for spring. Chloe’s whole body tingled with anticipation while she waited for the class to begin.

“First-timer?” a motherly woman asked as she placed a small, glossy booklet on Chloe’s sewing table.

“Yes.” Chloe glanced at the booklet’s cover. It featured a quilt that made her think of Twitchell Two’s clothes—mouse-brown, pea soup green, and worn brick building. The air oozed out of her enthusiasm.

“Don’t worry,” the motherly woman said. “You can choose any color to make this.” She pointed toward the bolts of fabric in the shop. “Pick out whatever you want and we’ll cut it for you.”

Chloe popped up, all eagerness again, and headed straight for the purple section of the store. She stood in the middle of the aisle, entranced, gazing at the feast on the shelves. Concord grape dragonflies flitted across a lilac pond on one bolt. Next to it, voluptuous pansies that seemed to have dripped from Matisse’s brush vibrated against an emerald green background. The pattern on the next bolt made Chloe think of jazz music with its repetitively random shapes. And the one next to that was all dots of purple in every shade of that color. That choice felt safe so Chloe tipped the bolt off the shelf and carried it to a table where a woman wearing pumpkin-colored glasses looked up at her. “How much would you like?” she asked, raising a tool that looked like a pizza cutter.

“I…I don’t know,” Chloe said. She felt a hot blush rise to her cheeks. “Enough to make the quilt they’re teaching in there.” She pointed toward the classroom.

The woman dropped her glasses to her chest where they dangled from a rhinestone chain. “First timer?” she asked.

Chloe’s blush deepened from rosebud to crimson. “I guess it shows, huh?”

The woman smiled, and her dark brown eyes twinkled. “Yeah. We all had that deer-in-the-headlights look when we started.” She waved her hands at the fabric. “Too many choices. It’s overwhelming. Would you like some help narrowing it down?”

Chloe fought the urge to run but she said yes.

“I haven’t seen the pattern you’re going to use so why don’t you get it and meet me in the purples, since you seem to like that color,” the woman said.

She wasn’t sure how it happened but when Chloe finally sat down in the classroom, she had a small pile of fabrics in purple, lime green, bright turquoise, and yellow. She laid them out in a fan so she could admire them, stroking them as if they were newborn kittens. Then she spotted the teacher and quailed a little at the disapproval in her glance. Unlike the warm woman who looked so lovely in her pumpkin-colored glasses, this specimen of the female gender stood tall, dry and brittle. It was obvious that the folds of her face had been sculpted by a lifetime of frowns.

“This pattern works best with traditional fabrics,” the teacher sniffed. “I suppose you can try it with other choices but I won’t be able to help you with the color placement.”

Once again, Chloe thought about fleeing but then someone closed the classroom door and the lecture began.

“Good morning,” the teacher said. “My name is Lynda Lynch.”

Lynch, Chloe thought. How appropriate. But then she looked at her fabrics again and resolved to stay no matter what.

The next three hours passed in a blur of embarrassment and confusion for Chloe. She flinched every time Lynchie issued a spiky new command:

“No, you do not put pins in that way.”

“Never pull the rotary cutter toward you. Do you want to slice off your thumb?”

“Keep your seams one-quarter inch. You do know what a quarter inch is, don’t you?”

One of the students in the front, an eager bride-to-be judging by the way she flaunted a large ring on her left hand, quickly assumed the coveted position of teacher’s pet. By the end of hour one, Bridey had a pile of perfectly-sewn triangles on her table. Chloe had small pieces of scrap.

By the end of hour two, Bridey had a pile of perfectly sewn blocks that resembled maple leaves.

Chloe had added some larger pieces of scrap to her small ones then she arranged them all on her table so they looked like leaves. She moved the colors around until she was happy with them.

By the end of hour three, Bridey had sewn her blocks together, and the teacher’s approval settled on her like manna from heaven. Chloe gave up, and gathered her scraps together. She would never be a quilter.

She heard the teacher coo to Bridey: “Oh, my dear, it is always so satisfying when you finish a top. Why, I finished one just last night. It’s for my god-daughter. Every one in my family who has a child eagerly waits for my quilted gifts.”

“Do you have it with you?” Bridey asked.

“Why, why yes I do,” Lynda Lynch said, her wrinkled lips parting in a smile that somehow made her face more difficult to look at. “Would you like to see it?”

Bridey fluted her acquiescence while the other students murmured their assent with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Chloe scooped up her scraps and rose to her feet as Lynchie pulled her quilt top from a bag, and held it up for the whole class to see.

Chloe stared, blinked, stared and then blinked again. The main fabric in the quilt, and there was a lot of it, was yellow—screaming-banshee yellow. Hurt-your-eyes-to-look-at-it yellow. A child-could-go-blind yellow.

Chloe smiled, suddenly glad she had stayed to the end of the class. She knew Lynda Lynch’s quilt was hideous. That woman may know how to sew, Chloe thought, but she doesn’t know a thing about design or color.

Chloe looked down at the purple, lime green and turquoise in her hands and thought about the beauty stitched by Twitchell Two. Then she pushed her way into the shop, and walked up to the woman in the pumpkin-colored glasses. Chloe loved the way they looked against the woman’s honey-colored skin and silver curls.

“So, what did you think?” the woman asked softly, raising her eyebrows in the direction of the classroom.

“I think I need to add some bright blue to this,” Chloe said, putting her pile on the counter. “What do you think?”

The woman smiled. “I think that’s a great idea. And I would suggest getting a book for beginning quilters as well,” she said.

“Oh I’d love to but I can’t afford it,” Chloe said, thinking about the state of her wallet.

The woman placed her hand on Chloe’s. “It will be my treat,” she said. “You’ve already got a good eye for color, something that many people never have.” Again her eyes strayed in the direction of the classroom where Bridey and Lynchie stood talking in the open doorway. “Think of it as my gift. I’ve always wanted to be a fairy godmother.”


By the way, you can read a whole lot more about Chloe and Lisa Cooper in my first Carding novel, The Road Unsalted.

Tree Undone—A Carding Chronicle

wq-tree-undoneIn the days and weeks before December 25 arrives, Christmas is all about anticipation for what may be. But such is not the case for the days and weeks after the holidays are over.

Hope you enjoy this Carding Chronicle, the first of 2017. Please share it far and wide and be on the lookout for the upcoming collection of Stories and Tales of Carding, Vermont.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
 
Somehow, the number of boxes designated as holders of Edie Wolfe’s treasured collection of Christmas ornaments had increased since she’d set up her tree on the day after Thanksgiving. She was sure of it. Otherwise, why did she have to make so many trips up and down the stairs?

Her tree was one of the smaller ones grown at the Tennyson Tree Farm, a mere four feet so that it would fit on the shelf in her bay window in the front of the house. She sighed again as she looked at the fully decorated tree one last time, touching individual ornaments with the tips of her fingers. They swung gently to her touch until the whole tree seemed alive with silver, gold, and glitter.

In some ways, ornaments were better than scrapbooks for jogging her memory of people and times past. At least the ornaments came out once a year. Scrapbooks…hmmm…nearly never.

Well, there was another New Year’s resolution for her growing list, Edie thought. Take the scrapbooks off the shelf at least once a year and leaf through them. Otherwise, why bother keeping them?

“Well, it’s the longest job that’s never started. Right, Nearly?” Edie’s cocker spaniel cocked his head at her. The noises that his human just made didn’t include anything immediately recognizable such as “walk” or “bonie” so he was reserving judgement until he had further clues as to her meaning.

“This calls for a cup of tea, at least.” Edie crept off to the kitchen, glad to procrastinate just a little bit longer.

In spite of the fact that Edie had no known religious bend in any direction, she considered herself a longtime Christmas lover. All of the lights on the houses helped brighten the darkness of early winter, and it just seemed so gloomy after they were put away.

And she loved the piney smell of the tree and the wreath on the front door, and the spiciness of cookies made just for this time of year. And she loved singing “Silent Night” in the Episcopal church, the oldest still-standing structure in Carding, on Christmas Eve when it was lit only by candles. For some reason, that song made her cry every time. It must be something about the cadence of the tune, she thought, because “Taps,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Greensleeves” had the same impact on her.

Simple tunes with great emotion.

She hummed while removing the garland, a red-green-and-white crocheted strip that she’d made for her twins’ first Christmas in Carding. Then she carefully lifted the strands of lights from the branches, trying but not succeeding in sending a cascade of dead needles to the floor. No matter how thoroughly she vacuumed, she knew she’d find a few of them hidden in the cracks between her floorboards in August.

Now it was time for the big finale, removing the ornaments collected by generations of the Wolfe family. Edie had long ago realized she just couldn’t take the time to linger over the memories attached to each one when the tree went up because there were always other people around, people who wanted to visit with one another, enjoy the season’s first eggnog, and make plans for the days to come.

But now alone in the house where she’d grown up, Edie could and did indulge herself in a warm bath of pure sentiment.

She grinned over a tiny pair of gold spectacles fashioned by her father and reputed to be the very same ones that Santa Claus wore to read his naughty-and-nice list. There was a set of miniature sleighs, each painted in red that could use a little touch up. Those had been on her Aunt Elsa’s tree when she was a little girl.

There was a red felt heart with a tiny spruce cone attached by green thread wielded by someone who obviously couldn’t sew. That had been her granddaughter Faye’s first contribution to the tree, a gift she’d made when she was only four.

Faye’s sewing made Edie look up to find the ornament that she lingered over the longest, the one she called “Small Boy.” It had been embroidered by her grandmother from a kit. It was a little boy with a blue hat pulled over his eyes, holding a wreath in one hand while waving with the other. Her Grandma Wolfe had taught Edie how to sew, a skill she exercised almost every day. Looking at that ornament instantly propelled her back in time to the room that held Grandma’s treasured treadle machine, and the doll clothes and quilts they’d made together.

Edie cradled the small ornament in her hand, gazing at the tiny stitches that outlined the boy’s mittened hands.

“I still think of you, Grandma,” she whispered, “every time I pick up a needle. Thanks, by the way.”

With another, deeper sigh, Edie carefully place “Small Boy” on the top of the box, shutting it away in the darkness until she could visit her memories once again.

…………………..

 Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning. And new for 2017, there will be weekly 60-second reads from my upcoming book on writing and publishing called What Would William Shakespeare Do?

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please share them and encourage your friends to subscribe to this website. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who share Carding, the more books I get to write, and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life

Thank you!

A Quilter’s New Year’s Resolutions

I wrote this set of resolutions when I was president of my quilt guild in 2013. Even if you’re not a quilter, I’ll bet you’ve got a passion that lights your fire like this one.
Sonja Hakala

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

January 1, 2017: I resolve not* to buy any fabric this year. I will sew only with what I have in my stash.

*Exceptions:

• Unless it’s something really pretty that just came into Hen House Fabrics in White River Junction or Barnyard Quilting in Fairlee.

• Except for something really cool that I find on sale in the back room of Country Treasures in Chester during the Vermont Shop Hop in March.

• Or anything else I find during the Vermont Shop Hop that I know will get sold out quickly if I don’t buy it now, especially when I am encouraged to think this way by the friends fellow enablers that I’m Shop Hopping with.

• Except for shopping the vendors at the Vermont Quilt Festival in June because I often find things there that I just don’t find anywhere else.

• Unless it’s fabric at a summer stash buster sale put on by a guild member fellow enabler because I know the prices will be incredible.

• Unless it’s something at the Textile Company in Greenfield, Massachusetts because I’m driving south on Interstate 91 and I rarely go that way so I might as well stop.

• And while I’m at it, I should probably stop at Frank’s in Charlestown, NH on my way south on Interstate 91 to see what he has on the shelf.

• And then there’s the stuff on sale in the bathroom at Quilted Threads in Henniker, NH which is not that far off Interstate 89 on my way back from a visit to the New England Quilt Museum.

January 1, 2018: I resolve not to buy any fabric this year because I have run out of space in my stash cabinet, and my husband says he’s not building me another, and I’ve run out of places to hide fabric in the house.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wishing all of you and yours the very best in 2017, no matter what your resolutions bring!

Bees and Ants

bumble-bee-on-comfre-for-web

Hi folks,

I’m revisiting some of my favorite Carding Chronicles this week. New ones will re-appear starting in the New Year.

Re-enjoy!
………………….
September is a month of change in Vermont. The nights are cooler. The fiddlehead ferns are dying back. School has started.

Speaking of school, Scott Tennyson is five now, and he’ll be starting kindergarten this week.

Join me in Carding, Vermont.


“Will you really be gone all day?” Little Freddie asked as he watched a bee move in a slow curve over his head. He liked lying on his back under the big maple that shaded the front of their house with his brother. He like watching the leaves move with the wind, and the ants marching to and fro through the grass, and chickadees flit from branch to branch.

What he did not like was the idea of his big brother going to school. It was far away, and full of stuff he didn’t understand, and worst of all, Scott would be gone all day long.

Nope, Little Freddie Tennyson did not like that idea at all which is why he kept asking the same question over and over again, hoping for a different answer. “Will you be gone all day?”

“Yeah, Mom says that kindergarten is so important, it takes all day,” Scott said.

“Why is it so important?”

“Oh, it’s got reading and stuff.” Scott sat up so his little brother couldn’t see his face. His last summer of being just a kid had gone by too fast, and to own the truth, he was a little bit nervous about this kindergarten stuff. Thinking about it made his eyes water.

Little Freddie contemplated what this whole reading thing could mean. He loved listening to his Mom and Dad read stories at night about trucks and talking animals and flying through the sky to have adventures with the stars.

To his mind, reading was a lot like magic. Somehow, all those black and white shapes on a book’s pages turned into words whenever grownups looked at them, and Freddie thought that was very cool.

He sighed. “I wonder if I’ll ever get to read.”

Scott’s head whipped around, surprise stamped all over his face. “Of course you will,” he said. “Dad says that getting reading and numbers is just a lot of practice. I mean, you can recite your abc’s, right?”

“Yeah.”

“And I know you couldn’t do that when you were born because you couldn’t even talk,” Scott said, warming to his subject. “And now you can talk and count and you know some songs and you know the difference between an ant and a bee…”

“Hmph, everyone knows the difference between ants and bees,” Little Freddie said. “Ants walk. Bees fly.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t know that at first,” Scott insisted. Somehow, talking to his little brother like this made kindergarten a little less scary for him. He got up, brushing grass from the back of his shorts. “You know lots of stuff now that you didn’t know before. It’s just that I’m older so I have different things to practice than you. But Mom says you’ll catch up.”

Little Freddie pulled a long blade of grass from a patch sprouting up close to the trunk of the tree. He twirled it thoughtfully in his fingers before sticking it between his lips where he let it dangle. “I won’t have anybody to play with,” he pouted.

“Well, Dad says you’re coming along when he drives me into school, and I bet you get to do some stuff with him that I won’t be able to do,” Scott said. His brother’s face lightened up a little bit.

“And you can come down to the end of the driveway to meet me when I get off the bus, and we can walk back together, and I hope you save some stuff to do with me for when I get home,” Scott said.

“Will you share your new markers with me?”

Scott opened his mouth to answer but their mother’s voice cut through. “Time to wash up,” she called. “Supper’s almost ready.”

The boys dashed off, Scott taking shorter-than-usual strides so his brother could keep up. The truth was, he didn’t want to share his new markers with Little Freddie because the three-year-old colored so hard, he smushed their tips. In Scott’s older, more mature opinion (one he never ventured to say out loud), sharing was a waste sometimes.

As the brothers blasted through the back door, Scott noticed their Mom was wearing one of their Dad’s old T-shirts, and it was dotted with the paint she’d been applying to the walls of the mudroom. Suddenly, the size of his Mom’s belly impressed him, and he grabbed his brother by the shoulder.

“You know, since I’m not here all day, you’ll have to do the stuff for our new baby sister that I did for you,” he said in a low voice.

Little Freddie’s head bobbed up, and now it was his turn to look nervous. “Like what?”

“Oh, like feed her, and hold her, and when she gets big enough, help her learn to walk,” Scott said as they headed toward the kitchen sink. “It’s important stuff, like what I did for you.”

Freddie stayed silent while he climbed to the top of the stool that let his hands reach the water and soap. “Does that stuff take practice, like reading and numbers?”

Scott nodded solemnly, glad that his brother’s sharing-markers idea had been replaced by a bigger one. “Lots of practice, yeah. But someone’s got to show her the difference between bees and ants.”


 Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning along with food photos and recipes from the Crow Town Bakery, and other green peak moments from Vermont.

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please share them and encourage your friends to subscribe to this website. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who share Carding, the more books I get to write, and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life

Small Steps

super-moon-risingImagine yourself at a social gathering. There’s 20 people in the room and everyone’s talking, sharing food and drink, enjoying one another’s company.

Now imagine what happens to the mood of that party if just one person starts to dominate the room with arguments, a loud voice or offensive words.

Why and how is it that the actions of just one such person can change the dynamic of twenty?

The members of Carding’s quilt guild, Shades of Emerald, are grappling with just that issue.

Enjoy the latest Carding Chronicle.


The membership of Carding’s quilt guild has fluctuated over the years. Sometimes, the number of people who pay dues to Shades of Emerald coasts above 70 people. Other years, it’s as low as 50.

But in general, you can count on 60 people to show up on the second Wednesday of each month in the community hall of St. John’s Episcopal church.

Edie Wolfe and her friends, Ruth Goodwin and Agnes Findley, were the founders of the guild. Over the years, their activity levels have waxed and waned because of life events and energy levels. But none of them has ever drifted completely away from the group, treasuring the friendships they’ve formed over the years.

“The guild is a place of refuge,” Edie liked to tell herself whenever she grew tired of volunteering. “And it’s worth keeping.”

But that was before G.G. Dieppe darkened their doors. A shortish, roundish woman of enormous bustle and little understanding, G.G.’s presence changed the equilibrium of the group.

And not for the better.

“Does that woman ever stop talking?” Agnes screeched in frustration as she made her way home with Ruth and Edie. “She prattles on and on and on. You can’t get away from her.”

“And if she has a lick of common sense or any sensitivity to the feelings of others, I’ve never seen it,” Ruth added. “Did you catch the look on Reverend Lloyd’s face when she started criticizing his sermons in front of the whole group? And the way she stuffs her political opinions up everyone’s nose…argh!!!”

They shook their heads in unison.

“Why are we polite to her?” Ruth asked. “You can tell by the looks on other people’s faces that they’re as offended by her opinions as we are, and yet none of us speaks up. Why is that?”

“Because the guild has no formal way to rid itself of an obnoxious member, and we all know it’ll just cause a big scene if we speak up,” Edie said. “I keep hoping she’ll get tired of haranguing us after the election, and go away.”

“Or at least shut up,” Agnes added. “She’s ruining the guild for me.”

“Yeah, me too,” Ruth said.

Alas, Edie’s wish was not going to be granted. Or at least it was not going to be granted in the way she had hoped.

On election day, Vermont was the first state called for Hillary Clinton, a result that could have been predicted before the polls opened that morning. But as the night wore on, it became apparent that the Green Mountain State’s three electoral votes didn’t count.

Except for G.G. and a small handful of others, the residents of Carding were devastated by the election results. The silence on the streets, in the schools, and in the stores resembled the silence following the assassination of John Kennedy and 9-11.

G.G., however, was ebullient, bubbling over with enthusiasm, and a perverse delight in the misery of others. She hooted and shouted that the election result was under the protective custody of her personal version of the deity, that “God and the Republicans won.”

Reverend Lloyd, ordinarily an unflappable man, was so exasperated with the woman’s unseemly display in the aisles of Cooper’s General Store, that he was momentarily struck dumb. When he finally found his voice, G.G. was long gone, prattling at her next victim and the one after that.

Edie watched the silly woman’s display from a distance, first with despair but then with a mounting sense of disgust. As the day after the election wore on, her phone began to ring…and ring and ring.

“I can’t bear going to the guild meeting tonight,” Cate Elliot started. “That G.G.…she makes me gag.” There was a pause. “What does the G.G. stand for, anyway?”

“Not sure,” Edie said. “Ghastly Godzilla, I presume.”

Chloe Cooper called next. “I won’t be at the guild meeting tonight,” she began.

“Because of G.G.,” Edie finished. “I’m hearing a lot of that.”

“I’ve never felt so awful about an election in my life,” Ruth said when she called. “And that G.G., she’s the worst. Do you think she even hears what she’s saying?”

“I doubt it,” Edie said. “Fools seldom understand that they are fools.”

After several more telephone calls, Edie’s disgust morphed into anger, and she realized she had to work some of it off. So she fished her work gloves out of the closet, threw on the jacket she reserved for grubby chores, and headed out to the backyard to stack wood.

Chunk. “He’s not my President,” she yelled at the logs.

Chunk, clunk, slam. “He will never be my President.”

Chunk. “How could this happen?” Chunk chunk.

The sun’s shallow November arc had started to fade when Edie uncovered a discarded snake skin between the logs. She gently picked it up, admiring the detail of the animal that had once worn it.

She laid it to one side then attacked the logs with renewed vigor, trying even harder to replace her fear and despair with exhaustion.

Chunk, chunk. Slam. A small movement caught her eye, and Edie stopped, log in hand. Tucked in the crevice of the wood holder, a dark spider hovered over her newly exposed nest. The small critter had obviously made plans for the spring.

Spring. Would there even be a spring?

Edie’s eyes teared up as she placed the next few logs with care so the hopeful mother would not be disturbed.

Small things, she thought. I need to step back and remember what’s really important here.

And it’s certainly not G.G. Dieppe.

Finally, the muscles in Edie’s hands began to ache from gripping the heavy logs. The sun was much closer to the horizon now, and twilight was sliding down the hills to fill the valley.

As she straightened up, three cars pulled into her driveway, each of them full of women from her guild.

“We tried to call you,” Ruth yelled from the window of her Jeep. “We’ve moved the guild meeting to Belmont Hill to watch the moon rise. Come on. It’s supposed to be up in a half hour.”

“And we’re bringing wine…”

“…and cheese…”

“…and crackers,” Agnes yelled. “Just drop everything right where you are. No time to lose.”

Edie stuffed her gloves in her pocket, dove into the circle of her friends, and they took off with a roar, climbing to the top of the highest hill in Carding.

When they arrived, they saw a riot of colorful quilts covering the hill’s eastern face, and a companionable silence reigned among the growing crowd.

“What about poor Revered Lloyd?” Edie asked. “He’s going to be stuck at the church with G.G.”

“Ha, are you kidding?” Ruth said, pointing to a collared man perched on a patchwork of blue and white. “This was his idea.”

Down in the village, G.G. stood at the door of the dark church, tugging on its locked door with frustration. She had so looked forward to cheering the victory of Team Red in the face of so much Blue opposition in the guild.

But she stood alone on the street, her mouth robbed of words.

The joy of life had moved on, leaving her behind.


 Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning along with food photos and recipes from the Crow Town Bakery (on Fridays), and other green peak moments from Vermont (Mondays and Tuesdays).

If you enjoy the Carding Chronicles, please share them and encourage your friends to subscribe to this website. And please review the Carding novels wherever and whenever you get the chance to talk about books. Your opinion matters more than you can imagine. The more folks who share Carding, the more books I get to write, and the more you get to read.

The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):

The Road Unsalted

Thieves of Fire

The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life