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Winter beats us down in New England

snowy trees

Truman C with cat

Everyone is tired and crabby after the past month or so of snow, bitter cold and more snow. Boston is a big mess that is making national news. Here in southern Maine we are not paralyzed to that extent, but driving is treacherous and we’re running out of places to put snow. Tonight into Sunday another 12-15″ is predicted, with 50mph+ winds. I went to my town library yesterday and stocked up for the long weekend with books and a movie.

Here is a photo of my late cousin Truman Capote with a cat – I have a collection of photos of writers with their pets and will keep throwing them in randomly. Capote has been on my mind since the hoopla over the pending release of his friend Harper Lee’s sequel to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I can’t help but wonder what Capote would think of all this, or of the book itself. His original last name was Persons; my father’s cousin Archie was his father. Truman’s mother later married Mr. Capote and changed the boy’s name. I never met him, but am a long time admirer of his writing.

Here is a short winter poem by Thomas Campion (1576-1620)

Now the winter nights enlarge
The numbers of their hours
And clouds their storms discharge
Upon the airy towers.
Let now the chimneys blaze
And cups overflow with wine;
Let well turned words amaze
With harmony divine.

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We got through January with the help of books

Mathiessen with cat

cat books

Here is the late writer Peter Matthiessen with a cat. And a feline doing research.

After an easy December with little snow, New Englanders were hit with three big snowstorms in a row at the end of January. And 6-10 more inches are predicted for tomorrow, at least in southern Maine. I’m still digging out and neatening up the walkways. Thank goodness for the library. I recently read two notably good books: THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich and THE ASSASSINATION OF MARGARET THATCHER, a collection of stories by Hilary Mantel. Erdrich’s novels are always rewarding, rich with native American wisdom, family history and humor. I really liked Mantel’s twisted, often dark stories. I want to read her WOLF HALL and sequels.

Consolations during this frigid, trying time of year include a fireplace, comfort food like mashed potatoes, stew and homemade bread, email with faraway friends, my cats and dog, “Downton Abbey” and other good things on TV, but most of all, books. I hope you have a big pile of them at your house.

New Year

blanket-of-snow

Here is a lovely poem by Moon Pie Press poet Ellen Taylor about that bittersweet task of putting away the holiday decorations. I’m done with the job at my house, after three days that featured a lot of snow shoveling, too. Our weather has certainly been conducive to getting a lot of reading done. May your 2014 be peaceful and prosperous and include the joy of poetry.

UNDECORATING

Alone I unhook the glass bulbs
from needly fingers of pine,
wrap them in folds of newsprint.
Wooden ornaments require less care.
They lie together in shoeboxes
where they will spend the year nestled
with attic mothballs and mice.
Strings of lights fall like strands of pearls,
and except for wisps of tinsel
the tree is green once again.

The crèche is packed away with tissue paper.
All through Advent, baby Jesus has been moving
from manger to apex of the stable roof
because my nephew, almost five, has decided
that if Jesus is God, then he should fly.
Now the angels lie down with the shepherds,
the sheep, the donkey, and the Holy Family
are put to rest for another year.

No one will help with the undecorating,
I remember my mother saying. She is right.
Perhaps it is a ceremony of one,
one custodian sweeping up
after the final performance,
still humming the tune
of the night’s final song.