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June 10, 2008


"As familiar as my own face in a mirror": a good way of expressing the mingled attraction and boredom/disgust/whatever the home landscape can inspire.

Doesn't sound too awfully different from central PA. The Shire, my Tolkein-loving brother calls it.

Beth, sorry to be off-topic but I'm sitting in the Guardian office and don't have your email address with me.I'd really like to have a few lines from you (as I said before) so please, if you wish, could you email to:


with subject line: for Natalie d'Arbeloff
before 6pm tonight (my time).

You have often said that Canadians tend to see themselves as coming from somewhere else - from 'the old country' - whereas most Americans see themselves as coming from the United States, all ties from somewhere else having been cut or lost. But as I read about your journey across Vermont and New York, the place names speak silently of a history of emmigration and displacement, of peoples and places once loved and then lost. Could this history be given voice again?

How beautiful, Beth. It's a wonderful reminder for us city folk to get to the country now and then. Like you, my heart is at such peace there in its green lushness. I love the city we live in, but when we go away for a break, it's always away from crowds, commerce, concrete... Sadly, so many small farms and towns are disappearing under the pressure of big agribusiness and globalization. I'm romanticizing the old days, hmm?

Gorgeous green pictures. I love this time of year. Sometimes, home is a place, isn't it?

Yeah, Dave, you're right - although I love that landscape and get drunk on it every time I go back. It's so much more open and varied than Vermont, and gentler. A different kind of beauty, but one that's somehow etched into my bones. The "Shire" aspect is something else again - not much going-and-coming there.

S.-- hmm. That's a very interesting comment. If I were a novelist, I'd consider attempting it. I don't think anyone has ever written the definitive central New York novel of place and movement - the books of James Fenimore Cooper, of course, and that old favorite of mine, "Drums Along the Mohawk." But a book about the movement of women has always intrigued me - my own ancestors came across from New England, on horseback, probably on the Cherry Valley turnpike for part of the way, to what was "frontier" in those days - the part of central New York where my family still lives. Enough of that history exists to build a story around. Maybe someday!

Marja-Leena, yes, it was so peaceful to be there. I wonder how I will manage if I'm ever living in the city more permanently...

Kaycie, I'm glad you liked the photos. And yes, home is a broad definition!

Ooooh, gorgeous. You have to get some of these ferns through the border for me. ;-)

I think that you should write the story Beth! Many great novels begin with a chance encounter or a fragment that begins to grow and to take on a life of its own.

'but the real answer is in the form and spacing of the hills and valleys, the pastures and trees' it's true, and it is like the variatins in the proportions and features of faces that means however similar people may be in type, we are all different. Landscapes are the same, I can't quite say how the unremarkable agrarian landscape here is different from the ones I came from in England, but it is.

I love the early morning fog in the greenery. Your description of this part of the world is beautiful. Makes me long for those green hills.

Upstate New York novels have a reputation for hokiness they probably got from the many books by Carl Carmer, but I think William Kennedy's Albany novels and Richard Russo's "Mohawk" (set in Herkimer) are good reading that doesn't rely on the excitement of the 18th century.

Here's a puzzle for you: Why would a search for the author of "Mohawk" inspire Google to throw a book ad headed "Toenail fungus must read" at me?

Kia ora Beth,
I always feel such a conncetion between your photos, my home place of Wisconsin, and Aotearoa. That green lushness and richness of the land, yet the mist still calls us to places yet to explore. Kia ora for the thoughtful post, Dylan's words still apt after all these year, "The times they are changin".

Bonjour Martine! Oui, ces fougères sont très très belles. Un jour, je vais essayer!

Thanks for the idea and encouragement, S.!

Lucy, I'm glad you understood what I meant, and Kate, I'm happy these photos and words gave you some good memories.

Peter, I haven't read ANY of those books, shame on me. I'll take your recommendations happily, thank you!

Thanks, Robb. Do you get back to Wisconsin much? A friend of mine, Tom Montag, writes his blog "The Middlewesterner" from that part of the world - you might like it. I'm glad to hear you find some connections between your home and mine. I've always wanted to climb that mountain with the mist - to the best of my knowledge there's no trail - so I've only gone up the one opposite. I am so grateful for wildness wherever it exists.

There's something transcendent about early June weather for me, and the association has spilled over to make early June special for me even when the weather is mostly hot, as it has been this year. I remember being alone and discovering a back road I took from Orange to Richmond here in Virginia many years ago in early June -- vista after intimate, Piedmont vista with weather that made the world a desire. The day lingers so strongly . . .

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.