"...it is not good to eat oatmeal alone"

Yesterday, with the temperature -4 degrees for the first time this winter, I had oatmeal for breakfast. I added maple syrup we'd made this past spring, and dried apples that I'd made this fall from apples from the orchard down the road.


Suddenly, this oatmeal held a short history of the year: of my in-laws who donated sap for the syrup; of sitting out in the driveway for hours with my husband, watching the sap boil and enjoying the first rays of spring sunshine; of the orchard owners whose peach crop had failed due to an unfortunate thaw then freeze, and so whose apples I bought in excess in an effort to help them out. Then, faced with, of course, too many apples, after making jars of applesauce and apple butter, pies, and crisps, in desperation I borrowed a hydrator (from the same kind in-laws) and made dried apples, which now topped this oatmeal.

And then there was the oatmeal itself, which reminded me of the wonderful poem "Oatmeal" by Galway Kinnell, whom I heard read this up at the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire, many years ago. It starts: 

I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
I make it on the hot plate and put skimmed milk on it.
I eat it alone. 
I am aware it is not good to eat oatmeal alone.
Its consistency is such that is better for your mental health
if somebody eats it with you.
That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have
breakfast with.

With everything crowded into this bowl of oatmeal, I definitely don't "eat oatmeal alone"!

"It's a mystery..."

I've done a lot of reading as I research the type of mystery novels I want to write. With police and lawyer stories at one end and cozy mysteries at the other, my favorites are somewhere in the middle, stories with characters who have a variety of interests, who can grow and develop into someone you'd like to know. I also like when they are set in a specific locale that became intrinsic to the plot.

Here's a great NHPR interview with Brendan DuBois, the author of the Lewis Cole mystery series that I have read over the years. Reading his books helped me figure out the type of mystery I want to write. 

November quiet

Thanksgiving has come and gone, with lots of great family time. Now it's quiet here again, and I pulled out a poetry book to enjoy in front of the fire, From the Box Marked Some Are Missing (Hobblebush Books, 2010), by Charles Pratt. My family and I used to visit Charles and Joan Pratt's orchard, Apple Annie's, and it became a very special place for us. In the poem "November: Sparing the Old Apples," he describes the old trees in the orchard  as "...broken-winged umbrellas/Black sea birds drying angular wings on a rock." The poem ends with him knowing what he should do but can't: "And I put my chainsaw away for another November/As if having endured conveyed some right to endure." There's something both exhausted and strong in that last line that appeals greatly to me.