Autumn Settles In

It’s gotten chilly here in Connecticut. The mornings are crisp and the nights are downright cold, at least from the standpoint of someone who moved to Florida a couple of decades ago. It’s time for pumpkin everything now – coffee, bread, muffins, pie, the whole works. And that’s great. But I always get a little sad when summer ends, even when it was a rainy one like this last one. I guess it’s time to move on, though. I’ll have to get out the muffin tins. Maybe light a fire in the fireplace. And hope for an Indian Summer.

A Walk among the Headstones

When I was growing up, my best friend and I used to walk to a cemetery down the street from where we lived in Connecticut and search for gravestones that had “lockets” on them. “Locket” was our name for a photo of the deceased, set into a headstone and protected with glass and a brass cover you would lift up. The ones I remember were oval, the clothing and hairstyles Victorian looking, and the expressions serious.

I still like walking through cemeteries with old headstones. Some of the carvings are lovely, as are the inscriptions. It makes me wonder who the people were, what they were like, what kind of family they had, what kind of life they led.

These photos are from a cemetery in Easton, Connecticut. The graves there are very old and the

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The Stone Walls of Connecticut

Even though I grew up in Connecticut, whenever I’m back here I’m always amazed and delighted by the stone walls that seem to be everywhere. They decorate the front yards of houses, they mark the boundaries between yards, they’re in parks and around ponds. And in some cases they show up in the middle of woods, running  helter-skelter among the trees, with boulders missing or entire sections gone.

New England is a rocky place. If you dig down six or eight inches you’ll hit stones and rocks and maybe the top of a boulder. Anyone who has ever cleared a New England field knows that. Decades ago, farmers put those boulders to use, building walls that marked the boundaries

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Thoughts of Summers Past

I’ve been seeing fireflies in our yard here in Connecticut. They rise, blinking, from the grass, flashing their golden lights. Seeing fireflies always sends me back to the summers of my childhood, which took place here in Connecticut. Chasing fireflies at night with my best childhood friend, Rebecca. Picking honeysuckle blossoms for their drops of nectar. And looking for mysteries in our neighborhood. We were fans of Nancy Drew. And we thought if Nancy could have dozens of mysteries fall right into her lap, why couldn’t we have one?

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Location, Location, Location

I’ve always lived in a place that’s close to the water – no more than a drive of a few minutes or so – and I don’t think I could ever live somewhere that wasn’t. The ocean in Palm Beach is within walking distance from our home and it’s beautiful, but there’s something about the Connecticut shoreline and Long Island Sound that I love even more. I grew up here and spent most of my life here and you just can’t discount history and nostalgia. But beyond that, the harbors in the towns that dot the coast are so picturesque. I took this photo on a recent drive to the shore in Westport. The day was steaming hot, but I sat on a bench under a tree, inhaled the salt air as if it were an elixir, and enjoyed a lovely breeze. There’s a famous poem by John Masefield that starts, “I must go down to the seas again ….” I get it, John. I know just what you meant.

You Can’t Go Home Again

The author Thomas Wolfe said it many years ago and it’s still true. On this street in Greenwich, Connecticut, between the gray house on the left (peeking out from behind the trees) and the white house on the right is an empty piece of land. There used to be a little house there and when I was very young – from birth to age six – I lived in that house.

I don’t remember a lot about it, except for a general sense of where the rooms were and a few details about the kitchen, which was large compared to the rest of the house, had flowered wallpaper, and had windows that faced the back yard. I also remember a glassed-in porch and the color of the outside, which was red. There was a stone wall in the back yard that I think my father might have built. He was very handy. A weeping willow hung over the wall and I used to grab the branches and swing on them. My dad rigged up a tire swing by throwing one end of a rope over a branch of the willow and I used to swing on that too. As a kid, it seemed as though our back yard went on forever.

Over the past few decades I’d driven by the house from time to time when I was in Connecticut and it became abundantly clear that the yard wasn’t big at all. Not from an adult’s perspective anyway. Now it’s all yard. The property went into foreclosure several years ago and watching the house’s slow deterioration was sad. On my most recent drive-by I saw that the house had been razed, causing me to have one of those “Oh, wow” moments, accompanied by a skirmish in my stomach. I’m happy someone finally bought the property and will be building a new house there. I won’t be going back to look at it though.

Upsizing

While most people our age are downsizing, my husband Bob and I decided to do the opposite. We recently sold our Connecticut townhouse, our summer retreat, and bought a house house in a very small Connecticut town. During the process of unpacking over 100 cartons, we looked at each other several times and said, “Whose idea was this again?” Half of me still thinks we’re crazy. But then I look out the windows onto our back yard and I get it. Two acres of mature trees and shrubs, dozens of flowering bushes, and a river at the bottom of the hill make this place special. Not to mention the scampering chipmunks and the steady chirp of birdsong. It’s like living in a nature preserve. And we love the house.  Maybe we are crazy, but I guess it’s the good kind.

The Simple Joys of a Flower

I don’t have a green thumb. Let’s get that out of the way right off the top. Although we have a lot of orchid plants at our home in Florida and they bloom very nicely, it’s not because of anything I do. I just hang them outside under our trees where they can enjoy filtered sunlight and I water them when we don’t get enough rain. Other than that, I let nature do her thing and when the orchids bloom I bring them into the house. Among theother tropical shrubs in our garden, we also have four gardenia bushes. The smell of gardenias might be one of my favorite things in the world. Lately they’ve begun to bloom and I’ve been bringing a few of the blossoms into the house each day. Even two flowers will fill our kitchen with a fragrance that’s deliriously sweet. The flowers only last a day or so before they wilt, but for that short time their beauty and exotic scent are magical.

Making Ice Cream with My Dad

I’m in Connecticut, where I spent most of my life, and I’ve been thinking lately about past summers, including some from the distant past. One of my fondest summer memories is of the first time I made ice cream. It was with my father at our former home in Darien where I grew up. I was probably in my late twenties on this inaugural day of ice cream making. I might have been thirty. I remember making it in the garage because it was kind of a messy process.

My dad had one of those old ice cream makers that required rock salt and bags of ice you had to crush into chips to get the job done. It wasn’t like the ice cream makers of today where you just put the little bucket in the freezer and then pop it into the machine, pour in the liquid, and it churns and chills and you’ve got ice cream. My dad’s ice cream maker was electric, however. It wasn’t so old that it had a hand crank, although I think that could be fun at a picnic with lots of kids to help.

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Adding Another Layer to the Cake

I’m working on the second draft of my fourth novel and I think a good comparison is making a cake and adding another layer. The first draft is the first layer, the foundation of the story. The plot and characters and settings are all there, but it’s not complete. Each time I make a new draft, I’m adding another layer, creating more depth and, I hope, a more detailed and interesting story. I’m also editing for language, flow,

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