real life

The sun is out, the grass is greening up, and little bright spots of purple and yellow crocuses dot the landscape.

It’s enough to make one believe once again in things like reliably warm breezes and tulips. Roses, even.

But here’s the thing: the peepers are still silent. And that means that at any moment the sun could go behind the clouds, and by morning there could be an entire foot of snow on the ground. Believe me: I’ve seen this happen.

Winter can’t be fully gone until the peepers declare it so. Peepers are little New England-y frogs who hang out in the little swamps and ditches at the sides of roads, and they sound like a combination of car alarm and horror movie soundtrack. If you were watching a movie with peepers making noises in it, you would just know that the murderer was IN THE HOUSE and about to jump out from behind the curtains and stab the woman who is innocently making a cup of tea, and you would get tense about it.

But for some reason, some great cosmic joke perhaps, these prehistoric-sounding things seem to be in charge of announcing that there is no longer any danger of ice and snow. Apparently it is the peepers who get the first memo from the earth that all that winter stuff is gone. People around here believe that once you have heard the peepers, you can safely put away the snow shovel and get out the garden hoe.

This brings to mind SO many questions.

WHY is it the peepers who are given this info, and not, say, the bobcats or the squirrels–or, hey, here’s an idea–how about the HUMAN BEINGS? Especially those who work at the National Weather Service. THEY might like to know when all danger of freezing is past.

And: do the peepers ever get it wrong? Has it ever happened that this ALL CLEAR memo is given to them by mistake? Or that the lead peeper misreads it and announces that it’s time to get out there and start peeping and three days later an unexpected nor’easter comes barreling through?

And if that ever were to happen, would that spell the end of peepers until next year…or maybe even forever? Would their soft amphibian little bodies turn to ice and then they wouldn’t be able to make new peepers? Is this something that we need to worry about?

I would miss their crazy soundtrack of spring, the way it feels to walk out onto the screened porch on an early spring night and hear them barking and croaking and calling out in what I imagine must be pure, unadulterated joy, SPRING IS HERE! THE WORLD HAS COME BACK TO LIFE!

It is, after all, their one job, and they can’t help it that they were given the voice of a police siren to accomplish it. They do what they can.

I have to admit that I’ve been in something of a gray funk lately, a mood which I always think can be fixed somehow if only I would Try Harder. You know, apply myself. Join my fellow citizens at the gym. Take up line dancing. Start meditating or eating right. Sign up for a marathon.

That actually may be the very worst part of gray funks, you know–the sinking feeling that if you only had a little bit more ooomph to you, you could manage to pull yourself out of it. So you go about lecturing yourself.

Take it from me: this does not help.

So instead, I have decided to stop trying to make things better and simply give in to complaining. Here’s a list of the things that are currently bugging me.

1/ It’s March. And it’s Connecticut.

Need I say more? As I overheard a guy say today, “March is the month that can break your heart.” I suppose it is possible that I have had my heart broken by March. The weather–at least here in New England–is abominable in March, and not merely because it’s cold and gray. We’re accustomed to cold and gray; hell, we’re four months into cold and gray at this point. For a true full-blown depression, you have to look at January. That’s when it’s not only colder and grayer, but you know you have months and months left of it. But now that it’s March, it knows and you know that things could be so much better. An example: last weekend the sun shone and the temperature struggled into the low 60’s, and people rejoiced in the streets. On Monday, it snowed.

I knew why. Just because it is March and it can.

2/ I have a low-grade cold.

Sore throat, loud coughing fits, sneezes, sinus headaches, sleeplessness. You name it. The house is filled up with crumpled up tissues.

3/ Also: to deal with the low-grade cold, I’ve had to take Nyquil at night before bed. Nyquil tastes sooo bad (and don’t try telling me to take the capsules because we all know the capsules are just a hoax, they have never helped anyone!). So to get myself through the bad-tasting Nyquil, I’ve had to eat a piece of chocolate cake each night after I take the medicine. Trust me: it is the only thing that can kill the taste. And how unfair is it that now I have gained approximately 35 pounds from eating a piece of chocolate cake for five nights in a row!

4/ Therefore, none of my jeans fit without hurting.

5/ We’ve had, in the last few weeks, the following domestic horribilities: a foot of snow, frozen pipes, a broken washer on the water pipes over the furnace which caused water to leak into the motor of the furnace, a blown-out tire, two cars with CHECK ENGINE LIGHTS that will not go off, illnesses, infections, clogged drains, a toilet that wouldn’t stop running water, and a flooded porch.

6/ There are about 6,000 little tiny things I have to do that involve calling up insurance companies, computer anti-virus services, human resource directors, cell phone people, bursars, credit card companies who have charged things automatically to our account, things that we do not want and did not authorize–or didn’t KNOW we were authorizing, and which now will take up four hours on the phone pushing buttons and listening to bad music.

7/ I thought I wanted my hair to grow long, but now I realize my hair is stringy and shapeless. This, even though I just went to have my hair cut two weeks ago. When I was there, I was apparently in a jaunty, I-can-have-long-hair mood and so I only let the hairdresser take 0.00006 of an inch off, but I now need to go back and pay $44 more to have a REAL haircut performed.

8/ I cannot figure out how to get songs I no longer like OFF my iPod and put songs that I really love ON the iPod. Because the iPod is filled up. With many unlistenable songs (what was I thinking??) This makes me feel stupid and inadequate. It’s my iPod. Why can’t I make it work?

9/ Okay, and while I’m grouchy about technology, let me then make this confession: I cannot for the life of me figure out how to watch a simple DVD in my own house if there is not another person present to operate the two remotes. These remotes make no sense to me whatsoever. Okay? I can’t even waste time watching movies!

10/ A new book is whispering to me, yet the part of my brain that feels so overloaded by having just finished the old book is saying, “WHAT?!?! Are you crazy? You can’t start a new book now! You haven’t even cleared the million little scraps of paper off your desk that have to do with the OLD book. You haven’t even returned the phone calls you didn’t return while you were working on the old book. And vacuuming: have you vacuumed since you finished your book? No, you haven’t. SO NO NEW BOOK UNTIL YOU HAVE FULLY CAUGHT UP FROM WRITING THE OLD BOOK!”


Update: I was just rummaging through the piles of paper on the desk, when I came across this quote from Lee Smith, a wonderful Southern writer whose books I adore. It was just written on a piece of paper, waiting for me to discover and re-remember it. It says:

“When stuff in life gets really rough, I would just die if I was not writing a novel. Once you think it up, it’s like a whole other city with a little door, and every time you sit down to write you just open the door and there you are–a wonderful vacation for two hours.” 

That’s what I have been missing: my wonderful two-hour vacations away from March and paperwork and my iPod and my yucky hair.

I’d forgotten what happens when you make a plan to hibernate: the whole world lines up as one gigantic test of your will.

It can’t help it. It wants to know how badly you intend to keep your promise to yourself to Just Do One Thing. It’s actually a public service, just a reminder to you to hunker yourself down and set your priorities.

Here is what just the last few days have brought:

1. Our wonderful, sweet, delightful tenants decided they would like to leave our attached in-law apartment and live elsewhere. But why? What happened? Just last week, we were all shoveling the driveway together and laughing and smiling. They’re a lovely young couple, and we LOVED them! Was it the three snowstorms that made the driveway an athletic challenge? Or did we make too much noise over Christmas? They won’t say. “The apartment does not meet our needs at present,” was I believe the way the letter phrased it. But I know what it really is: it’s simply a test.

2. So we are back on Craigslist, looking for new tenants. Reams and reams of pages of new potential tenants!

3. Our car–the one with 215,789 miles on it–is suddenly very, very tired. And has recently taken to issuing black smoke to express its displeasure with life, and today it just refused to start for 20 minutes and then changed its mind and started right up. You could almost hear it chuckling to itself. The trouble is, it’s time to re-register the thing. Do we ditch it now and spend time trying to hunt down another car we can afford, (the novel, the novel!)… or take the chance of re-registering it and THEN ditching it a month from now, after we’ve spent money on it, getting it healthy enough to even qualify to be registered?

4. Objects are starting to play tricks on us. The garage door opener disappeared and stayed missing for nearly 24 hours, and then reappeared in a friend’s car, where it had apparently fallen out of my bag while she was giving me a ride to Starbucks on a day when my car keys were already lost. (This was two lost objects in one day, which is far too many for somebody with my nerves.)

5.  The plumber has declared that our copper pipes have the consistency of “tissue paper.” I don’t want to speak any more about this, because I don’t want the pipes to get the idea that this is a bad thing, you know? I hurried the plumber out of the house when he started to talk about this. He replaced one length of pipe that had actually sprung a leak, which was all very good of him. But I don’t want the pipes to get the idea that this kind of thing is going to be tolerated for their whole length, or anything. Just the idea of having the entire pipe system of the house needing replacement is enough to make me break out in hives.

I can’t afford to get hives now, at least not until January is over.

There are other things lining up to be dealt with, too. There always are. Sinus infections, insurance fights to be waged, heaps of laundry to be done. The Christmas tree to be removed. A newly purchased vacuum cleaner to be boxed up and returned to the store for a credit because it refuses to suck things up. Fascinating discussions at Starbucks among the customers. 

Ah, but I will not be diverted. I have been writing every day. The pipes may turn into a sprinkler system, the tenants may desert us, and all my objects may defect, but I am churning through pages, taking Sudafed, ignoring the outside world, keeping my head down and typing away like somebody who knows what she is doing.

I. Will. Make. This. Deadline.

Oh, and I’m on a blog tour!! Tomorrow I’ll post something about the schedule…after I go look it up!

Hope the Januaries don’t have you in their clutches. 

I don’t want to make any of you wild with envy or anything, but today a plumber came to my house.

I know. It is not an easy thing to get such an event to take place. And it’s not like it happened just by magic. We had been waiting for quite a while–it was a couple of weeks since we made our first request–and we waited patiently, because when you are waiting for a plumber, attitude is everything. If you get mad, or worse, lose faith that it will happen, then the universe steps in and puts you back at the bottom of its invisible list. You must wake up every day, confident that the plumber is working his way to you. Do not let doubt creep in.

I can’t even imagine what it must be like to actually BE a plumber, a person whose services are so in demand that he cannot even stop to answer the phone. Ours is a perfectly nice man, a little on the taciturn, gruff side perhaps–but this is just because he is forever having to put up with people standing knee-deep in water wondering why he didn’t get there before. People are not at their best when they are standing knee-deep in water or are hearing hissing sounds from their pipes.

We were not knee-deep. We were big-toe deep perhaps, and even then only in one section of our garage, inside a closet where all the mysterious waterworks of the house seem to be located. I often go and look at them as they gurgle and hum and send water along its confident way through the pipes of our house. They seem quite sound. I hear the well pump go on and off, hear the chuggling sound of water in the pipes, notice its fervent flow when you turn on the taps.

But then a few weeks ago we stepped into the garage to find a puddle. We peered at the machines who looked innocently back at us.

I mumbled a few words, something along the lines of, “We are too busy for this right now. Stop it this instant!” (This sometimes works, and I always recommend trying it first when there is a household crisis.)

The leak stopped, we made it through Thanksgiving, and then it started up again. We called the plumber’s answering machine. The leak stopped. Then re-started. Re-stopped.

The plumber did not call us back.

Some days we would step into a puddle in the garage, some days not. Then there was a hiss, and a slight mist of water coming from the pipes area.

I emailed with friends, trying to plan our times to get together. “I don’t know when next week I can really see you,” I said to my friend Peggy. “A plumber is expected sometime.”

She wrote back that she was also in line for a plumber. She’d been waiting for two weeks for her plumber. It had gone on so long, in fact, that her mother felt sorry for her. One day when the mother had worked her way up to the top of some plumber’s actual list and actually had him in her house, she called Peggy and said, “Would you like to come over and gaze upon my plumber?”

We laughed.

So today my plumber came. I was still in my pajamas, wearing an old ratty sweatshirt and flipflops when he arrived, but I did not dare make him wait while I changed into real people clothing. You don’t want to risk him going off to some other, more deserving job. I showed him the non-leak (because of course it stopped when it heard he was coming.) He knew what was wrong, though, and replaced a whole section of copper pipe. Before he left, he ominously predicted that many, many more feet of copper pipe will be needed soon and for a lot more money. Our pipes, he said, remind him of aluminum foil.

“Happy holidays anyway,” he said. He really is very, very nice. He used to have a toilet seat riding on the grillwork of his truck. And sometimes he would bring his nice dog with him.

Lately, though, he is just busy being the most harried person in America, beleaguered by phone calls and hissing pipes and people standing knee-deep in water and yelling at him.

I didn’t yell. I like the brand new copper pipe, and I am currently just glad I can go to see my friend Peggy.

“Today,” I will tell her, “I gazed upon my very own plumber.”    

Yes, it’s true. You count a dog out, and he decides that he doesn’t care if the world is a slanty mess, and that he will have to walk tilted to the right for a while.

He has decided to get well.

And so we’ve been going to visit him every day, and each day he is more and more bouncy and frisky, and more excited about the carrots we bring…and today I would have brought him home for good, except that my husband and I are going into New York tomorrow to see our daughter in a play! YES! She plays Mona in “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,” and we are going to sit there in the front row and clap and clap, which is one of the perks of being parents of an acting student in New York.

See? Here she is, with her boyfriend, smiling. (This is not her boyfriend in the play; this is her real boyfriend, who is very nice, and we like him a lot.)

And so when we come home tomorrow night, our hands sore from clapping and our voices hoarse from shouting, then we will go and get Jordie, and will turn the family room into a Safe Room for a compromised doggie, moving all sharp objects and putting his bed and his food dish down there, so he won’t ever have to climb stairs and risk hurting himself on the furniture. It has been lonely in the house without the sound of wagging and panting. And no one still here wants to go in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out…and well, I kind of miss that.

 September 2008 005

Today–drum roll–it’s ELECTION DAY! And, oh by the way, KISSING GAMES OF THE WORLD is now officially available in stores.

The whole concept of a Publication Date is interesting. Before I ever had a book published, I imagined that Pub Date would be, like, the Best Day Ever. You know, along the lines of brass bands and balloons. Flowing champagne, barrels of monkeys. At the very least some puppy dogs.

Turns out that Pub Date is pretty much like any other day, though. You wake up and brush your teeth, feed the dog, check your email. Drink a cup of tea. The marching band doesn’t show up. The faucets are not flowing champagne. Later, when it’s obvious that lobsters and caviar aren’t going to be showing up, you leave the house to go out to buy something for dinner.

That’s when you see a bookstore. A bookstore! Your book will be on a shelf, FOR SALE. Perhaps, you think, you might even see a real customer picking it up and considering whether to buy it. How cool would THAT be!

DON’T DO IT. I repeat: DO NOT LET YOURSELF GO LOOKING FOR YOUR BOOK IN A REAL STORE. Your book is not on the shelf. They are sorry, but they never heard of you. They look at you as though you are a pitiable wretch, someone who’s obviously delusional. Perhaps an escapee from a nearby mental institution.

"You have a BOOK out?" they say as though they are speaking to a very dim kindergartner. They go over to the store computer and push a few buttons and peer at the screen. Why, yes, there IS a book there with that name on it, the name you’re claiming is yours. How interesting. But no, no. They don’t have any plans to order it. Sorry. They can’t order EVERY book that comes out, you know. They give you a pitying smile and turn to the next customer, a REAL customer who is not making rude demands.   

You go back home to throw back some jello shots before you get back in your bed. Later your friends from all over the country start phoning to say that they looked for your book in every bookstore in practically the entire nation, and it was to be found NOWHERE, and what happened? Was there some mistake with the date?

You disconnect the phone and get under your bed. Pub Date has claimed another victim. Too bad you didn’t plan ahead and have something else to think about.

But today! Today was my Pub Date, and the nation was kind enough to provide a wonderful distraction. It was as fine a distracting day as you are going to find. An entire election happened. And a more exciting election a person couldn’t ask for! I went and voted, went out to lunch with friends, went for a walk downtown. I didn’t pass a bookstore. No one called to say, "Oh, I didn’t see your book ANYWHERE."


Now THIS is the best Pub Date EVER!!

Oh, I have to go. I’m crying.

I woke up with a radical idea today. I WOULD COOK DINNER.

A real dinner, not the kind where you just open the freezer and toss a frozen something into the oven or on top of the stove. It was a beautiful day, and I have been running around like a crazy person lately, between interviewing people for my newspaper job, teaching a Creative Writing workshop, writing my novel, PREPARING my mind for writing my novel, hanging out on Facebook which is the same as publicizing my new novel so it is really work and technically not fun even though it looks like fun (and if you wanted to go there and "friend" me I would be delighted).

So you can see I am tired from all the friending and preparing and sometimes actual writing that I am doing.

Nevertheless, everything about this day said: COOK BLONDE CHICKEN CHILI.

I actually sang in the kitchen, sort of in a Donna Reed kind of way. I didn’t have the heels and the dress and apron, but I was wearing regular clothes and not my usual ratty bathrobe. I browned chicken breasts, I sliced and cooked onions until they were transparent, I opened cans of white beans and green chilies. I assembled spices and vegetables. It was, you know, like real cooking. Like people do!

It smelled wonderful while it was cooking, and I felt very noble indeed.

But then I went to rinse out the cans of chilies to put them in the recycling, and that’s when I noticed that the inside of one of the cans had some problems. It had all kinds of mottled black areas in it. Very suspiciously black, gross metallic things. So I did what anyone would do: I called up the company, waited for a long time on hold, and then got somebody who wanted to know the secret code number on top of the can. I gave it to her and she went off to check with all the scientists who were hanging around on standby just waiting for consumers’ questions.

She came back to the phone a little breathless. "Good news!" she said. "Gobs of black metal inside the can simply means that the can had a defect and that the contents of the can were exposed to things in the metal, and that turned the can black in spots. But it’s okay to eat. Although, according to the code you read me, those chilies WERE supposed to have been eaten before June 2007."

Now, I ask you, sane people of America, how is this GOOD NEWS? Is this woman training to do spin for a political campaign or something?

And when nearly every day some new food is found to harbor things that kill people and give them E. coli and worse, is there a chance in hell that I am going to eat chilies out of an expired can with black things inside it?

I think not. I told her I wouldn’t trust my good health on this, and she said, "Well, ma’am, that’s up to you. But it probably won’t hurt you."

So it’s pizza for dinner. Again. 

Apparently I am not the only one who thinks there are novels lurking in Starbucks, just waiting to be written.

At any given moment, the Starbucks near me is filled with people typing away on their laptops, or else staring off into space hoping that the right word will appear. I am often there myself, when the words on my porch have all gotten used up and I have to go find better ones.

But it’s a curious thing, writing in public.  As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out, why is it that people now expect desk space as part of the deal when they buy a cup of coffee?

Today was a curious day in Starbucks. Apparently it was Give-Away Day. Employees kept coming out from behind the counter–out into the office space–bringing with them paper cups and pots of new blends they wanted us to try. At one point I had to explain to a well-meaning, smiling guy in a green apron that I am actually not a fan of coffee at all. I am a tea drinker, I said, and pointed to my Venti black tea, unsweetened, extra ice, as proof.

“Ah, but have you tried taking some of our HOT teas and having us brew them up into iced tea for you?” he said.

Now why would I do that? I couldn’t think of a good answer, so I just said, “Actually, the black tea suits me just fine.”

He went away, but a few minutes later was back, passing out cups of oatmeal to some of my fellow office workers. A man had to interrupt his cell phone call to explain that he actually wasn’t in the mood for oatmeal right then. Another  worker, a woman whom I know is writing a memoir about her childhood in France, had to remove headphones when the oatmeal was thrust in front of her. “Thank you, but it’s four in the afternoon,” she said. “Oatmeal is kind of a morning thing.”

Starbucks wasn’t deterred, however. When I went up to the counter later to get a cookie (nobody had offered me oatmeal), the guy pointed out a cardboard cup sitting off by itself.

“You know what that is?” he said. “That’s some orange spice tea I’m brewing for you. It’s cooling now, and soon I’ll put ice in it, and you’ll have a whole different iced tea experience.”

And sure enough, a few minutes later–there was a glass of tea to go along with my OTHER glass of tea. All around the room, people were sipping their unfamiliar blends, or tasting cups of oatmeal they didn’t want, struggling to get back their momentum for work.

I can’t figure out what’s going on. Maybe Starbucks is trying to drive us out, pester us with niceness and generosity.

One of my fellow writers packed up his stuff early, shoving his laptop down in its case, his cell phone into his pocket, and his glasses into his shirt pocket. “I can’t take this today,” he said. “I’m going to have to punch out early, take some time off today.”

“Where are you going to go?” I said.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Someplace where I can relax and just take it easy.”

I might as well admit it: September 1st is creeping ever closer. It is now, in fact, LOOMING. Which means that I should be finished with at least the first draft of this novel. I mean, I don’t think that editors are going to come to my house and seize my laptop or anything…but I would like to have something finished by then. I want to have written THE END at least once.

But then, because one cannot write all the time, I discovered the blog of Joshilyn Jackson here, a verrrrry funny writer who is also on deadline for a novel and so has declared July National PJ Month. How funny is that! Here I was, celebrating National PJ Month too, and thought I was the only one who can’t get dressed anymore and who wanders the house muttering to invisible fictional beloveds.

So today, being Saturday, I bounded out of bed and rejoiced just a little that my family members all had Exciting Things To Do that didn’t involve me, and that I could sit around in my PJs and write, write, write my little heart out.

But instead it turned out to be one of those days ruled by the crazy hamsters who live inside my head, the ones that think anything I’m currently doing is not the right thing at all. I hate those guys!

So far I’ve swept half the kitchen, ruled out going to the gym, started a letter to my stepmother, read five pages of the second pass of the edited manuscript for Kissing Games of the World (due at the end of the week), read the first three pages of the new novel I’m writing and turned the first chapter into a prologue and then changed it back, talked on the phone to my friend Deb for a half hour, read four pages in a book about publicizing books and decided to learn how to make a book trailer and a podcast, checked out three new writers’ blogs, set up a special bookmarking section for publicity sites, read the weatherbug to see when this heat and humidity will lift (answer: never), answered five emails, watered all the plants on the porch that could be watered with one fill-up of the watering can, petted the dog, ate five grapes, contemplated getting dressed and getting a haircut, ruled that out, contemplated cutting my own hair without getting dressed. And now I am blogging.

Heaven help me, but September first REALLY is going to come, and I’m already exhausted.

Summer writing is very different from winter writing, I’ve found. This summer I am stationed out on the screened porch…which looks, I know,  like a very calm and placid world. I mean, as long as it’s not raining, of course.

I sit out here and work on my novel, drink iced tea, and every now and then jump up and spray soap solution on my plants. (That plant in the picture, for instance? The one that looks so lush with its purple flowers? It’s currently a patient in  my special Soap Hospital for Plants and has about a 50% chance of survival, I’d say, due to an infestation of aphids that I am every day at war with.)

But my main job, now that I am out here on the porch viewing nature’s ways first hand, is as a nanny to a family of cardinals who are living in the bush that is just on the other side of the screen on the upper right of this picture.

I have always been partial to cardinals due to the fact that my father loved birds, and when he was dying, nearly 20 years ago and I was sitting at his bedside, one of the last conversations we had was about a male cardinal who kept coming to the window and looking in at us. It was one of the few times I saw my father smile during that last horrible illness–kidney cancer–and so I have always associated his memory with those beautiful birds. It’s amazing how many times when I’ve been in a tough spot, I look up and there’s a bright red cardinal just flying close by, and I can’t help it, I always feel as though my father is looking in on me, making sure I’m okay.

So this year a couple of cardinals chose to build their nest right on the other side of my writing porch–and believe me, I got the message. These were birds sent by Dear Old Dad just to keep me working at my novel.

After a rather impressive time of building the nest, the female cardinal sat there for day after day, all by herself. She looked in on me as I wrote, and I kept watch over her eggs when she had to fly away for a few minutes. I felt we were creating a bond somehow. She didn’t even startle when I would get up and head to the kitchen for more iced tea, or when the dog would wag his tail against the screen. Clearly, we were friends.

I was puzzled as to why her husband never had to take a turn on the nest—I mean, fair is fair!–but one of my kids told me that I shouldn’t make too much of their domestic arrangements. “Every species makes its own deals,” said my son.

One day she left the eggs for quite a little while, and a bunch of cowbirds came flocking by, hopping up branch by branch, getting closer to the nest. Really? I thought. Am I going to have to police this nest? But just as I was getting up to go have a stern word with the cowbirds, the male cardinal, in all his splendorous red-itude, came charging into the tree, chirping and chattering and sending those cowbirds packing. It was quite an impressive display of fatherhood, let me tell you. 

And then last Sunday, just when we were all exhausted with the waiting–baby birds hatched!

We porch-dwellers were elated.

(I took this picture of them with their little beaks in the air, and you will see why I have to write novels for a living. I am clearly no nature photographer.)

UPDATE: right now, as I’m writing, both the mother and the father cardinal are on the nest, feeding the babies together. I am pleased to say that the father and mother cardinals are turning out to be exemplary parents, flying in and out at all times of the day, at least 35,000 times during my writing hours here, bringing worms and other delectables…and that the minute there is any kind of danger of other birds moving in, the father swoops down from out of nowhere and chases off the intruders.

He seems to be a good protector, and I notice that he brings by some pretty heft worms, too. So maybe he had it written into his contract that he wasn’t responsible for the egg-sitting stage.

That’s the father, there on the left, peeking into the nest while the mom is away…she probably had to run down to the Save & Discount for some Worm Helper…and on the right, there’s the mother, having returned.

It’s astonishing how much drama there can be on a summer day on screened porch in essentially the middle of Nowhere, Connecticut: epic warfare with aphids, the domestic lives of birds playing out before me, and…oh no! Now a cowbird has taken to flinging itself against the screen multiple times, clearly exhibiting bird psychosis. OMG, now it is lying on its back on the porch ledge, legs in the air and feathers all ruffled up. Perhaps this is a bird death scene (a swan song, as it were)…or merely a temper tantrum over not being able to get at those cardinal eggs.

But no. Now the cowbird flies away, the mother and father cardinals go off to dig up more worms. Little bunnies are hopping around in the garden, and a nice breeze is riffling through the screens, making the dog lift his head and smile.

Except for the busy aphids, all is well on the porch. Back to the novel, where things need to have their own dramas.

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