Crabbing On Isle of Wight Bay

 At an old footbridge we set up  —

Tied the chunks of eel to twine, threw the lines

As far as we could, so the crabs

Might think they’d chanced on a choice breakfast.


Pull the lines gently, my father said, draw

The string in slow and steady. We stayed for hours,

Not much to do but test the lines, nibble sandwiches

A half at a time, drink grape soda from the can.

We gazed down at the current, saw

The lines drifting away from where we sat,

Making parallel lines in the green water.


Throw him back, my father said, when

we netted a small one.

Too, there was his prohibition

against keeping the female,

her apron marked by deep ridges.

I turned the net inside out and let her go.


That night  in the tiny cottage kitchen

we splashed beer and vinegar into the pot,

turned on the blue gas flame.

Barehanded, my father lifted the scuttling creatures

one by one from the cooler, dropped them into the pot.

We sprinkled the crabs with Old Bay.

I heard them moving about, rattling against one another, then

It was eerily quiet. The sweet, spicy smell

of crab suffused the room.

I breathed it in deeply.


We hammered away and picked,

Praised backfin and clawmeat,

Licked the seasoning from our lips.



The Place, Part 3


There was a parade of  barmaids and bartenders over the years: Mr. Oscar, whom Dad inherited from the tavern’s previous owner; the aforementioned Miss Bea;  Miss Vi, a sweet, fortyish woman who moved to Florida after she got married;  Hilda, a short,wide-hipped  plain woman who wore glasses and had no sense of humor at all. I never saw her smile..She stuck around a long time, but when she quit, she just up and left—I never heard anyone speak of her after that. George Scout tended bar on some of his layovers from the railroad, and he bunked in one of the rooms upstairs, two beds on ancient iron frames with grey sheets, and night tables littered with cigarette ash and tattered paperbacks, mostly Mickey Spillane crime novels. Continue reading “The Place, Part 3”

The Place (part 2)


The menu–never written, always spoken but only when anyone asked first– consisted of  breakfast, lunch or dinner at any time of day. Eggs, ham or bacon, toast and coffee. Often, a special of the day–baked ham, roast beef with  mashed potatoes and gravy, meatloaf, corned beef. Or  my father’s specialty—hearty soups—navy bean soup, split pea,  beef stew—and on occasion, Maryland crab soup.  When he had time and the price of backfin was good, he made up two or three dozen crabcakes, which disappeared fast from under the glass domed cakestand that sat on the bar near the Hotpoint grills. Continue reading “The Place (part 2)”

The Place

Part 1
In  1951, my father bought a tavern  in Highlandtown, at the corner of  the East Kresson and Fairmount, from a Mrs. Mary Menniger.  Before that, the building was,  a tavern, when first built in 1900,  a confectionery and a bakery during Prohibition, and by the late 1930’s, a tavern once again. Dad installed an orange and green neon sign outside, a very long arrow that surrounded the very long name, Spigelmire and the word BAR underneath.

imgres-2We lived a 20 minute drive west of Highlandtown, in the northmost part of  Hamilton. We called  the tavern  The Place. Continue reading “The Place”

The Pier Ballroom at Ocean City [Nanorimo, Day 8]

On our last night at the ocean, Kate and I walked down to the amusement area again, to the city pier, the bigger rides, the food stalls. First, we wanted to explore the pier ballroom to see what it was all about. As a child I had often wondered about it. The sign outside was enticing. I remember the days when I was very small, holding my father’s or Aunt Sally’s hand as I watched  couples dressed up more than the rest of the boardwalk strollers, disappear into this mysterious place for grownups. Kate and I knew we were too late for the record hops that Baltimore djs had presided over every week this summer until now, but we sneaked  inside that evening to see what we might have missed.WashPharmView5_thumb

Continue reading “The Pier Ballroom at Ocean City [Nanorimo, Day 8]”

Talking Back to the Ancestors, in _The Lost Country_, Fall 2015 issue

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 9.10.29 PM Continue reading “Talking Back to the Ancestors, in _The Lost Country_, Fall 2015 issue”

Found Poem–Discovered inside an old copy of _The Velveteen Rabbit_

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“Pink Sky” in _The Lost Country: A Literary Journal of the Exiles_

Continue reading ““Pink Sky” in _The Lost Country: A Literary Journal of the Exiles_”

Engineer: Poem for a Childhood Friend

This poem, which I wrote last year, is reprinted from Grey Sparrow Journal, Spring 2015, in memory of my childhood friend Dan Lawrence, whose memorial service takes place today in Baltimore, our hometown.



He was the boy who loved trains

of all kinds, and trolleys—back

when they still ran along the roads to

Carney and Towson, all the way

to the route’s end, Woodlawn or Windsor Hills Continue reading “Engineer: Poem for a Childhood Friend”

House Guests and the Writing Regime

Continue reading “House Guests and the Writing Regime”

An Accounting

An Accounting Continue reading “An Accounting”

“Revisiting High School 50 Years Later”

12049444_10100142888472172_1525019609648562159_n Continue reading ““Revisiting High School 50 Years Later””

Lah-Di-Dah: Why You Should Go to Your High School Class Reunion


If you have qualms about going to a high school reunion, I recommend that you stay away for a good 25 years or more, then  take the plunge. The older we get, the more we appreciate these gatherings, especially if you make sure your group of friends from those days are also along for the ride. As one friend said last week when we had a little post-mortem on our high school reunion of many years—let me say only that we and Hillary Clinton are of similar vintage—“Those who came to the reunion were the same as they were back in high school, only our sharp edges had been rounded off.” Girls who might have snubbed me in high school were now tolerant, seemed interested in chatting, hearing about my life and telling me about theirs. I hope I was more accepting, as well, this time around.

I attended a Sisters of Mercy, all-girls school in the ‘Sixties. We were mostly from working class or middle class families. There were no girls of color—no Asians, no African Americans. When we were sophomores a couple of Cuban girls—daughters of doctors or lawyers—showed up after Fidel Castro came into power and many of the middle class families fled to the U.S. Those few girls were the sum and total of diversity at Mercy High back in the day.

Today, the universe my school draws on is richer, more interesting, multicultural. Students come from a wider geographical area, and there’s a highly diverse student population. Their uniforms are more stylish than ours were, and they have an array of classes we never had access to, especially in science and the arts. The school once sat in a solid, stable middle class neighborhood. After several decades, the environment around the school has changed for the worse since my school  opened its doors in 1960. Baltimore has endured its share of problems, economic, social and political. Industries have died or left town. There is no more Bethlehem Steel, General Motors, no shipyards as before. The city has lost people—and much of the tax base. The 1968 civil disturbances after the assassination of Dr. King led to the burning or abandonment of many inner city blocks. The ever-increasing drug trade—as David Simon’s HBO series The Wire so vividly illustrated—has claimed block after block from East to West Baltimore—and has claimed many young lives as well. The dearth of jobs has siphoned off young men— and young women— from the community as they are sucked into the business of selling drugs. The public schools are often ineffectual, and middle class and affluent residents increasingly choose to send their children to private or parochial schools.

And the Baltimore uprising of spring 2015 has meant even  more erosion of citizens’ faith in the people who are sworn to serve and protect them. Many Baltimoreans have lost what little hope they had that the city would grow vital again.

There are pockets of hope: Marian House, which for thirty years has supported homeless women and their children, offering rehabilitative services and job training…. Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Southeast Baltimore. There are more initiatives like these. But we knew we were coming back to a city that faces  enormous challenges. We looked for the things that were then and remain, that we loved and still love so much: a walk through one of the city parks, a stroll on the Hopkins campus, a morning spent at the central Enoch Pratt Library.

So in this autumn of 2015, and the autumn of our years, almost a hundred Mercy girls from my class year gathered to celebrate, to reflect, and to take stock of our lives, to consider all that we learned when we were young and all the lessons we carried with us through these many years. Several of our former teachers, now in their seventies, joined us. There was laughter, sadness, stories of lost children, spouses who died too soon, marriages sanctioned by the state but not the church, small and great achievements, grandchildren, second and third careers.

One from our class traveled from Hawaii, where she has lived for four decades. She joined five of us in an air b and b house near the Hopkins Homewood campus. We hadn’t been in touch with her for ages until very recently, and a couple of us hadn’t even known her in our class, which numbered over 250. Our Hawaiian friend came bearing orchid and plumeria leis for each of us and Lion coffee, voted Hawaii’s best. She told us of her travels to Guam, Johnson Atoll, and Iraq, in the course of her many jobs. She spoke of losing her only son to an accident, and of helping raise his two small children.

The rest of us shared our stories, as well. When we disagreed about politics, we set it aside and stayed on common ground. Tales of divorce, of illness or death of spouses, worries over grown children, took precedence over Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

We drank wine, and one night, champagne, ate caramel popcorn one of us brought from Rehoboth Beach Delaware, wore fuzzy socks the Californian had tucked into gift bags –along with spice jars of Old Bay seasoning, mints, fancy emery boards, and miniatures of vodka—and laughed, talked, wept, talked some more, drank more wine.

For four days and nights, we told anecdotes from high school days, the college frat Halloween pajama party where three of us showed up in pajamas but fully dressed underneath, the first U.S Beatles concerts we attended, the year three of us decided to ride our bikes to school even though it was not a very cool thing to do in those days. The years fell away, and we were once more the same girls we were when we donned the brown skirts, white blouses, and taupe blazers, brown and white saddle shoes and white cotton socks.

The Reunion dinner at our old school ended with our singing the alma mater, a cappella, led by our former French teacher, now a theologian. A table of former basketball players followed up immediately, belting out an old basketball cheer. Everyone joined in: Those girls, they are the best, lah-di–dah, lah-di-dah, lah -di-dah-dah-dah.

Lah-di-dah, indeed.

I say, go to your reunion. Put on your red dress and your high-heeled sneakers, and your wig hat on your head, if that makes you feel better. Your mature self will become reacquainted with your teenaged self, and you will be astounded at how much better you feel now than you did then, and how much easier it is to talk to the people you sat next to for four years.

And, you never know—you may even be presented with an orchid-and-plumeria lei,fuzzy slipper socks, and caramel popcorn from the ocean, hon.

Photo credit: Gay White

An edited version of this essay appeared in the Baltimore Sun, October 13, 2015.

Crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay

e6a2a5c8abd32406ef2a67903a49dacad3646415 Continue reading “Crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay”

Committing to Memory

images-3By the time I was in elementary school in Baltimore, the old, early twentieth century method of instruction, memorization and recitation in class, had been replaced by a more kid-friendly approach that combined reading, class discussion, writing answers, and even doing projects connected with our studies, whether they were in science, geography, history, arithmetic, literature, or the arts. Continue reading “Committing to Memory”

New poems:”Talking Back to the Ancestors,” “Pink Sky” & “Gun Stories”

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 11.36.21 AMPublishing poetry–-work that, one hopes,  is read by non-poets and poets alike–- has become far easier since the advent of the Internet, the World Wide Web, and the profusion of online journals as well as traditional print journals (or publications that do both) whose editorial staffs use online submissions managers and allow simultaneous submissions.  There is a relatively fast turnaround between submission and acceptance or declining. If you write poetry, send out your work! Continue reading “New poems:”Talking Back to the Ancestors,” “Pink Sky” & “Gun Stories””

Summer’s End 2015: Winding Down? Or Un-winding?

IMG_2101In this outer Cape Cod town the week before Labor Day, the locals like to say, “Things are winding down.” The city people arrive in high summer, tense and stressed, not loving the long line for croissants at the boulangerie, or the wait at the small seaside theatre, general admission in a house that seats no more than a hundred patrons. With so many visitors in such small spaces,  we’ve been all wound up since mid-July. Now is the time to unwind, not “wind down.” In yoga, unwinding usually comes after a strong twist, turning from the lower belly and the low spine repeatedly, till it’s possible to look out over the shoulder and turn the gaze almost past that shoulder. Breathing in, then slowly unwinding comes last, and then, the yoga teacher might advise students, “Close your eyes, and notice how you feel. “ Continue reading “Summer’s End 2015: Winding Down? Or Un-winding?”

“The Dying” –Check out the Irish Literary Review Poetry section for my newly published poem…

Read “The Dying” here.

The Irish Literary REview, September 2015
The Irish Literary Review, September 2015

The Mini-Triathlon for Aging Boomers

IMG_2771 Continue reading “The Mini-Triathlon for Aging Boomers”

Music and Poetry: a Complicated Combination …


Kathy KirbyThe Song Is, an   online music and poetry journal,  has just   published three of my poems that center on music and emotion–Diva (republished from Foliate Oak),  I Can’t Get No,  and Harp Music.  Click here to read them.



Ode to Our First Tomato of the Season






Up here in New England, our weather’s not hot

So one ripe tomato is all that we’ve got.

We’ll slice it and give it an arugula bed,

A salad of deep green with one speck of red.

It’s mid-August now, and we promise, no  gripin’,

But let’s hope that the rest, all the  green ones will ripen.


Dry Days in the Garden

imgresWhile the Cape Cod garden has been benefitting from daily watering by means of the irrigation hoses in the vegetable patch and hand watering for the flowers and herbs in terra cotta pots, the home garden has been enduring days without a steady rain. The perennials are putting up a brave front, but the hostas look bedraggled, with yellow or brown leaves appearing around the edges. The day lilies’ leaves are yellowing or browning as well, and the monarda leaves droop– and their blooms don’t last very long. Continue reading “Dry Days in the Garden”

“The Dying” in The Irish Review…

Look for my poem, “The Dying,” in The Irish Review, forthcoming.irrev

Cefalu, Prosecco and the Tyrrhenian Blue Sea

IMG_2592Sun hot on our backs, we strolled up  from Isnello— Continue reading “Cefalu, Prosecco and the Tyrrhenian Blue Sea”

Day 6: Espresso and Street Life in the Comune di Isnello, Sicily

IMG_2565We rise early to start our last day of the walk from Enna to the sea, after a quick breakfast at our Madonie ski lodge. The silent man in the light grey suit–the lodge owner? manager? kitchen boss?–appears once again, pacing along the far wall of the dining room, hands clasped behind his back, overseeing every detail, as he has for both our dinners and breakfasts. We have our suitcases ready  at the top of the stairs by  7:45 a.m. for Martina to pack them in the van. Continue reading “Day 6: Espresso and Street Life in the Comune di Isnello, Sicily”

Ticket to Ride

images Continue reading “Ticket to Ride”

Day Four in Sicily: A Walk Through the Misty Madonie

IMG_2563 Continue reading “Day Four in Sicily: A Walk Through the Misty Madonie”

Goats and Wild Peonies and Gorse, Oh My! Walking the Madonie Mountains

Continue reading “Goats and Wild Peonies and Gorse, Oh My! Walking the Madonie Mountains”

Sperlinga’s Man — and Woman — Caves

Continue reading “Sperlinga’s Man — and Woman — Caves”

Sicily from the Center to the Sea, Day Three: Commune Di Gangi and Sperlinga

Gangi, from the road below
Gangi, from the road below

Continue reading “Sicily from the Center to the Sea, Day Three: Commune Di Gangi and Sperlinga”

Sicilia, Walking from the Centre to the Sea. Day One: Enna to Gangi

Cathedral doors at Enna
Cathedral doors at Enna

Continue reading “Sicilia, Walking from the Centre to the Sea. Day One: Enna to Gangi”

Long Before I Went to Sicily…

images-1 Continue reading “Long Before I Went to Sicily…”

My poem, “Patissiere,” won an Honorable Mention in …

Continue reading “My poem, “Patissiere,” won an Honorable Mention in …”

May 17 in the Garden: Defining the Edges as I Consult the Genius of the Place

IMG_2441 Continue reading “May 17 in the Garden: Defining the Edges as I Consult the Genius of the Place”

May 2 in the Garden: What I Did When I Should Have Been Reading Student Papers

Continue reading “May 2 in the Garden: What I Did When I Should Have Been Reading Student Papers”

Three Poems: “Diva,” “Preparations,” and “Judgment”

Three of my poems  about the “Sixties, just published in Foliate Oak Literary mag–“Preparations,’ “Judgment” and “Diva” –in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine.




Tree Cutting: Evicting the Black Locust

Continue reading “Tree Cutting: Evicting the Black Locust”

“This is About Letting Go” in UK Yoga Magazine, April 2015

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Spring, Now and Then




A friend asked me to send her a photo of the first robin I saw this spring. But the robins have been back for quite awhile, poking their beaks through the slowly melting mountains of snow, now hills of the stuff. Walking towards one of the oldest buildings on campus yesterday, as I climbed up the 40 slate steps to the door, I glanced back and saw a robin. No, two. No, there were three and as I stopped and watched them for awhile, I counted seven. I haven’t yet graduated to a smartphone, so I had no way to snap a picture of them, an extended family of robins… Continue reading “Spring, Now and Then”

In print and online in Grey Sparrow Journal, Spring 2015!

You can find my work here.

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Primavera, una fatina: Vernal Equinox Blues, 2015


Spring break for my college began three days ago. In this part of the world, the vernal equinox officially happened yesterday at 6:45 PM. Last night, another inch of snow, perhaps more, fell, freshening up the grey ragged piles of the stuff left over from February’s blizzards. Daffodils’ green shoots have appeared in the small garden that runs along the cement retaining wall in front of the house. The tall Norway pines branches are dusted with white–again.

One of our snow shovels is stuck fast in an ice pile on the deck. Leggy rose bushes, buddleia and spirea are calling me to prune their splayed branches. I have no idea where I’ve stashed my pruning shears, and one of my work gloves is missing. Black plastic trash bags stuffed with miscanthus clippings last November are still buried under the snow, around the back of the house near the arbor vitae. I see the yellow plastic drawstrings peeking out from the snow pile. If the snow ever melts, I will transfer the detritus from plastic to paper bags and put them out on the curb for the recycling truck.

Five or six large dry branches fell during the winter’s storms, so when the snow melts, we’ll make a burn pile and secure a permit to have a little fire before the rock garden comes alive with perennials. We’ll rake up the accumulated piles of sunflower hulls and scat under the bird feeder.

Today we’re feeling trapped inside, reading the news of two ongoing trials in Boston, pondering why our hockey team has been faring so poorly of late–and looking forward to attending a Red Sox home game in April. Today might look and feel like winter, but we’re more than ready to store our wool caps and gloves, and retrieve our baseballs caps from the back of the closet.

A memory from many years ago leaps to mind, a sunny Tuesday afternoon at Mrs. Clement’s kitchen table. It was a warm Baltimore spring. Our Italian grammar books and literature readers were spread out on the table next to half-cups of tea and a large plate that was nearly empty of cookies. On Tuesdays we had Italian lessons after school, and our homework for that day was to memorize a poem, Primavera. One by one, each of us four recited the lines, stumbling here and there. Mrs. Clement gently corrected us, helping us through the exercise. Primavera, una fatina

And now, I think to myself, Primavera, dove sei?

This week’s publications!

Three of my poems, “Diva,” ” Preparations,” and “Judgment,” have been accepted for publication in the May 2015 issue of the University of Arkansas’ Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, 



At 6:30 a.m. on a snowy Thursday, BWI is already buzzing and the security lines are long. A young woman in turquoise sneakers with bright pink laces and a white down coat is right behind me in line. She jostles me as I’m tossing my belongings into three gray bins. I quickly stash my gear: my laptop, out of its case, my toiletries in their quart-sized Ziploc bag, my tiny handbag, and my jacket. I’m not moving fast enough for Ms. Turquoise Sneakers, and she starts to reach around in front of me, swinging her single plastic bin, but I quickly close the gap. I shoot out mental darts at her, warnings that say “Don’t mess with me, girlfriend.” She backs off about four inches and I nudge the bins down the metal table to the rollers, then push the first bin onto the conveyor belt and watch it all disappear into the x-ray machine.

I step quickly into  to the X-ray body scanner. I hold my arms over my head. My feet are firmly placed within the painted yellow lines on the rubber pad. I pretend to be George Clooney in “Up in the Air,” intent on speeding through the screening process.

This has been the airport drill since 9/11. I remember what it was like before, when I ran into the airport 10 minutes before my flight, jogged to the gate, and breathless, handed over my ticket—a real paper ticket purchased from a travel agent and sent to me through the U.S. mail. All seats on every flight were reserved. There were always window seats available. Dinner was served, or a sandwich, if it was a short flight. I paid cash for a glass of wine or a cocktail, two or three bucks at most. There were no laptops, no mobile phones. Smokers sat back and lit up cigarettes, exhaling smoke that traveled up and down the aisle. Passengers pored over newspapers or read paperback novels. The flight attendants— model-thin, under thirty, all dolled up in short skirts and full makeup— we called stewardesses, and males in that position were so rare that nobody bothered to call them much of anything.

There were cheap student fares on the New York-Boston or Boston-BWI shuttles, $25 each way, easily affordable even on a student’s budget. No reservations, standby for the cheap fares, and there always seemed to be one seat left, so I never planned my trips far in advance. Either I got on, or I waited for the next shuttle. With a novel to read, or a journal to scribble in, I had plenty of time to hang out at the airport. Long distance calls were expensive, so I would wait until I reached my destination to call a friend from a payphone. If my friend didn’t pick up, I called another one, until I found someone willing to fetch me from the airport.

There were small adventures along the way. When flights were delayed, I might hang out and meet a potential romantic partner. I might finish reading a novel, or The New York Times, all four sections, every column. I might write—using a pen and paper!— a sonnet or a four-page letter to a faraway friend reporting on school, job, roommates, and social life. Days and weeks might pass before I heard back from the letter’s recipient. And in the time between the posting of the letter and the response, there was time to wonder, imagine, fantasize, explore the possibilities. Did she sleep with that married guy from work? Did she go on the Pill? Did he break up with the love-the-one-you’re with girlfriend and choose the one who had gone off to Paris for a year ? Did they move to Vermont to start an organic farm?

At the airport, I might doze, sitting on the floor against a pillar, substituting my coat for a comforter, and trust that the airline personnel would rouse me when it came time to board. Sometimes, I missed my flight, and waited for the next one.

Less scheduled, more serendipitous, less structured, freer. Those who are the same age now as I was then, live in an environment tightly orchestrated by Siri, Tivo, Nest, Instagram.

Oh, what they‘re missing.


What Do We Do When We Are Waiting


I’ve spent the past day in the hospital’s family waiting room or at the bedside of my “loved one,” as the hospital volunteers like to say, doing what one does in these situations—waiting. It begins as soon as I park the car and make my way the fourth floor surgical unit. I wait to be escorted into the surgical unit where my loved one is also waiting—waiting for the nurse to review the medical history, take her blood pressure and check her pulse, waiting to be hooked up to the IV, waiting for the surgeon to see her and explain the procedure, waiting for the anesthesiologist to stop in to go over the conscious sedation protocol, waiting for the nurse to bring the gurney to wheel her into surgery.

We wait for over three hours. Everyone in our entourage is hungry, especially the loved one, who has fasted for 30 hours, with no more than a sip of water to take her morning medication. When she’s finally wheeled down to the operating room, I wander to the coffee stand, grab a 4 PM lunch. I return to the family waiting area, where there is more waiting to be done. Time passes, in a blur of nonstop television news coverage on a flat screen TV, reading a mystery novel on my Kindle, thumbing through a newspaper someone has left on an end table.

At last, the surgeon appears. All has gone well, he says, explaining the details. It will be a couple of hours more until the loved one is ready to be discharged. More waiting. The day slides by in minutes, half hours, hours of waiting, walking, stretching, bathroom visits, sanitizing hands for the twentieth time, more waiting.

At the end of the day it ‘s hard to fall asleep because the waiting has had an odd effect on me: after so much waiting, I am curiously energized. I find it impossible  to read myself to sleep. The digital clock says 12:30. I must be up and ready to leave for home by five. “Sleep fast,” my late, wise mother used to advise in such situations. So I do, tossing, awakening every half hour to find the green light of the clock staring at me: 3:30 4:15, 4:45. This time I wait until an hour before  dawn, when I can slip on my backpack, zip up my down coat, and head home and back to work.

I will be busy then, back in my teaching orbit, and done with the waiting, at least for the time being.


Waiting for Snowstorm # 6


Blankets, yoga strap and two foam blocks rest on the yoga mat that I’ve stretched out before the fireplace. To make room for our impromptu back-stretching sessions, the rug is rolled up, placed tight against the CD cabinet. Sun pours in through the picture window. In the kitchen, containers line the windowsill, catching to drips from the ceiling, the result of ice dams on the roof. The compost container in the kitchen sink is stuffed with used coffee filters and their grounds, old tea bags, and vegetable parings. The freezer holds more compost, because it would be foolhardy to attempt our way through the five-foot high snowdrifts to reach the composter by the back fence.

Our 21-year-old cat hasn’t been outside for two weeks, and shows no signs of missing her nightly ten–minute strolls from kitchen to back deck and garden.

We’re caught up on laundry, and we’ve sorted through all the old bills, statements and old grocery lists that normally clutter our desks. We have gathered all our tax documents for the annual April ritual with the IRS, weeks away.

We’ve called my husband’s nonagenarian parents every day, even though we know they are safe, warm, and well nourished, tucked in at their senior living residence 22 miles away. Our sons email or text from their apartments in town—we’re fine, we’re digging out, we’re making pizza/chili/tacos tonight.

We have listened to Aretha Franklin singing diva favorites, Bill Evans on the piano—a 57-year-old recording that sounds strikingly contemporary, young Cecile McLorin Savant working her vocal magic on jazz standards, the Senegalese Orchestra Baobab. We have watched The Americans, Downton Abbey, and the Bruins on television—as well as twice daily weather reports on the New England News channel, where the reporters seem to have camped out for days in the studio.

Snow. More snow. And then, after a few days, more snow. Biblical snow, says our friend Elizabeth. We have no need of a gym to work our muscles: instead of using hand weights or fancy exercise machines, we shovel snow and hurl it five, six feet high, over the growing snow hill beside the driveway, or we carry it into the garage and tip the white stuff out the garage window onto a hollow made by the high winds.

Our next-door neighbor walks down the middle of our newly plowed street, walking Lily, his beagle. Lily sniffs the road and pulls at the leash. I lean against my snow shovel for a moment and say, “We are hardy New Englanders.”

“That’s what we need to keep telling ourselves,” Mark replies, and we both laugh. Lily pulls at the leash again, and off they go down the street, stopping at each house where an intrepid shoveller is clearing a walk or driveway. The wind is strong, dusting newly dug-out cars.

For dinner, we roast a chicken and make popovers. Tearing the golden rolls open, we inhale the aromatic steam, and settle in for another winter evening.


Upon Finding That The Ceiling at My Office at Work Has Leaked


The ceiling in my office leaked,

my carpet is a mess.

How long it will remain like this

is anybody’s guess.


Some books are trashed, some DVDs

are bathed in flakes of paint;

The scent of mold, and mildew there’s

enough to make one faint.


My 9th grade Odyssey is fine,

my con law books as well.

But one tenth of my holdings

are really shot to hell.


My car trunk’s packed with cartons

of stuff I want to keep.

I’ll have a Buddhist outlook,

and try hard not to weep.

Short fiction: “Take Gutman,” in Drunk Monkeys Online Magazine

Find the story here.

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On City Snow Days Gone By– Baltimore Sun Op-Ed, 2/8/15



I grew up in the 1960’s, in a housing development that backed onto a small woods. Until our woods was razed and supplanted by apartment buildings, we used the “forest” to build forts and act out scenes from televisions shows about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. We wore coonskin caps, carried toy rifles and used paper percussion caps to simulate gunfire. In summer, we played baseball in our backyards. Sometimes a fly ball would vault into the woods and get lost. Or a loose foul tip broke a basement window behind the makeshift home plate. There were rivalries: the boys against the girls, the bigger kids against the younger ones. But snow was the great equalizer.

More than two inches meant an official Snow Emergency in Baltimore. All cars were ordered off the major thoroughfares, and sometimes even the smaller residential streets like ours in Northeast Baltimore near the county line. Snow tires weren’t unheard of, but more often, people drove to the local gas station and had chains installed on their tires. Riding in a car with chains was a noisy enterprise at best, and sometimes one of the links would come loose and rap at the wheel cover—we called them hubcaps. Soon the ride sounded like a morning in a noisy Lowell textile mill— crash, clatter, crash, clink, bang….


Click here to read the rest of this story  online in the February 8, 2105 Baltimore Sun.

Happy to report…

that my short story, “Take Gutman, “dm-logohas been accepted for publication by the online magazine “Drunk Monkeys.” Stay tuned for  publication details, forthcoming!

Baby, It’s ColdS Outside (and in)

January cabin fever sets in when the cold that’s been making the rounds comes home with you. I saw a butcher in our local grocery store preparing a package of Angus ground beef while his nose collected a big drip, no doubt the result of his spending too much time in the walk-in meat refrigerator before he came out to the warmer area.  Please, don’t drip snot on my hamburger, I thought.  I wondered, will cooking kill the germs? I sighed in relief when he finished wrapping the chopped meat in white butcher paper, weighed it, and slapped on the price tag. I tried not to stare at the drip that hung precariously at the end of his large, sharp nose. And I tried not to laugh.

I think back to where I might’ve met this cold virus. There’s a long list of suspects. The manicurist where I got my nails done, at Nail Perfection! Suze’s a warm, funny, kind person who came to the U.S. from Vietnam by way of Thailand two decades ago. The day I dropped into the nail salon, Suze had such a bad case of laryngitis that she couldn’t speak more than a whisper. “Go home!” I said, “Carrie can take care of me, or I can come back tomorrow.” Suze shook her head, took off her coat and said what she always says to me: “Pick your color, Lynne,” The salon, a small space crammed with four manicurist stations, was almost deserted. The salon owner, Carrie, wore a paper medical mask and applied gel to another client’s nails. On the overhead television, the local news reporters covered a bad traffic accident, then a feature on service dogs. Suze finished my manicure in record time, and left before I finished drying my nails under the magic machines that seal the nail lacquer in ten minutes. I may have left with more than dark blue polish on my nails–Suze’s cold and sore throat.

Or perhaps it wasn’t that at all. My cold and laryngitis might have originated with my friend or his partner, who hosted us for dinner that same evening. There were post-holiday hugs all around when we arrived, and more than a few sneezes. The day before I came down with my sore throat, I heard one of our hosts had been laid low by the rhinovirus.

In summer, at least it’s easy to go outside and bake in the sun, even go into the ocean and submerge, to clean out the sinuses. Winter in New England means the humidifier going all night, the heat on 68 during the day, 60 at night, layers of sweaters and heavy socks, lots of herb tea with honey, and a 20 year old house cat who thinks she wants to go outside, but never lingers outside for more than 30 seconds.

This time last week, I was in Miami, riding the eco tour tram around the Everglades, enjoying the egrets, the anhingas, and the alligators. Later that day I sat at a table outside the U of Miami Starbucks, sipping an Americano and reading my novel. I’d shed my boots, temporarily, for sandals. It was a joy to wear a sleeveless cotton shirt and linen pants. I ‘m starting to see why old people flock to Florida for the winter.

Give thanks for the following: over the counter cold medications, Bengal Spice tea, the Britta water filter pitcher, and fat, juicy, sweet red grapefruit piled up on the kitchen counter. Things could be worse.

Calendula, the (Deceptively) Humble Pot Marigold

Calendula Wellfleetia
Calendula Wellfleetia

It’s a warm, springlike day when we arrive at the cottage on the Friday before Thanksgiving, But one glance at the garden lets us know that in the three weeks since we’ve been here, the plants have suffered a frost. The last zinnias are withered and dried, their gray foliage stuck flat against the sticks that on our last visit here were living stems supporting pink and yellow blooms. The four o’clocks have died, too, as have the sturdy black-eyed Susans and the once-lacy leaved cosmos. The dahlias are brown and sad-looking, their stems mostly rotted away. We dig them up and stow them in the basement for the winter. The last of the small Japanese maple tree’s leaves have dropped. The nasturtiums have given up, too, and their seed pods are hardened. I pick as many as I can, to dry, for next year’s container gardens.

What’s left of our flowers is the calendula. Bright yellow, or deep orange, with lush green foliage, they line up in a row next to last crop of spicy arugula and four stunted-looking rainbow chard plants. Aside from the last half dozen carrots and the deep green parsley, everything else is either asleep for the winter—the garlic—or gone by.

Those calendula—now in a Beatles coffee mug on the dining table in the cottage, are the last blooms standing. We can’t bear to leave them behind when we go back to town, so they will have to come home with us tomorrow, and spend the week on our kitchen counter.

A cold rain fell steadily all day here, and tonight, the scattered leathery oak leaves are soaking, the first stage in a long process of decomposing. The calendula give us one last bit of summer 2015 in a Made in China mug.

Anti-inflammatory properties, useful as a dye, acne remedy, edible leaves for salads or tea infusions—is there no end to the talents of this humble flower?

Come next March when the Flower Show comes to Boston, I’ll be right back at the Hudson Seed Library booth to buy more packets of seed to grow more of those resilient, faithful ladies.