Enter the house of Munro!

 

“There isn’t time to say a word. Roberta doesn’t scream. George doesn’t touch the brake. The big car flashes before them, a huge, dark flash, without lights, seemingly without sound. It comes out of the dark corn and fills the air right in front of them the way a big flat fish will glide into view suddenly in an aquarium tank. It seems to be no more than a yard in front of their headlights. Then it is gone–it has disappeared into the corn on the other side of the road.”

This is from a favorite Alice Munro story, “Labor Day Dinner.’ It comes near the end, offering a moment of mystery and suspension of time. What an amazing and beautiful feat.

 

Alice Munro has said, “A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely oropulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.”

Those of us familiar with the stories of Alice Munro and those of us entering her house for the first time will be beguiled and sheltered by her spaciousness and concision. Whether in rural or urban settings, whether about departures or homecomings, birth or death, Munro’s stories provide us readers with plenty of surprise discoveries and inevitable truths. I was introduced to her work while in graduate school and was both inspired and daunted by her ability to write stories that capture a sweeping life and the decisive moments when a life is changed by a chance meeting, or an opportunity passed by. In this study session, we will read from “Selected Stories,” and discuss the work in terms of both form and content, craft and theme. What a treat to embark upon a deep study of Munro’s evolving revelations on self, women, family, and landscape.

I’m excited about taking a deep dive into Munro territory. I’ll be leading a Soapstone discussion group, Entering the House of Munro, for 6 Tuesday evenings, 19 September thru 24 October. Come join me! email info@soapstone.org if you’re interested, and I hope you are. Just a few spots left!

Dinner & A Story

 

 

STORY:

Zamboni, by Rebecca Makkai. Tin House Magazine, Winter Reading, 2016

What I love most about this fantastic story is Mel, our narrator, a disenchanted, unemployed, lonely and bored mom always bucking stereotype. I mean, jeez, she’s a sommelier! In a small town in Wisconsin where the best restaurant is a sushi bar! Her husband is clearly cheating on her and with the discovery there is no rending of sleeves, There’s zero drama, In fact, she considers his actions her get out of jail free card. Not as a way to end the marriage, but as a way to add swerve and complications to her life.

Makkai seems to have a lot of fun playing out Mel’s desire and strife in the ice arena. Any parent who has spent unceasing hours at their kids’ sport practice knows how brain numbing it can be. Mel, to counter her boredom, embarks upon a flirtation with the dad of a talented ice dancer.

He held out a hand, ungloved and red. His name was Sean. Sean Adler had curly black hair cut close and was, in Mel’s estimation, gorgeous. His whole profile changed when he swallowed, when his jaw muscles tightened under dark stubble.
        She said, “I shouldn’t say so, but I find this much more interesting than hockey.”
        She heard her choice of words—confessional, intimate—and recognized that she was flirting. Well good.

Makkai is the master of the great scene. She lingers, pushes past where I might choose to leave and so discovers more. Sodden drunken behavior at a party, too many revealing tweets, lies supported by a lab wearing its owner’s FitBit, a UTI, mean kids… the quotidian details all add up to something funny and smart and so much more than suburban gossip. It’s all here. I love this story so hard!  (Click here  to read the story online. Click here to purchase the Winter 2016 issue of the magazine. Trust me, you won’t be sorry. There are more fantastic stories inside from Antonya Nelson, Jim Shepard and Jo Ann Beard.  Plus it’s on sale, 25% off with the code Summertime, as I write this! Yay!!)

 

DINNER:

 

Okay, I know …the only thing Italian about this story is the title, and a glancing mention of buttered Italian bread, but the eggplant was so tempting, the tomatoes so fresh, indulge me and this great recipe from this week’s NYTs which I’ve slightly adapted..

Pasta alla Norma.

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 12 basil leaves, plus a few basil sprigs for garnish
  • 4 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes w/juice, fresh or canned (I used fresh and did not peel! Neither would Mel!)
  • 3 or 4 small eggplants (about 2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pound pasta, such as penne, rigatoncini or spaghetti
  • 1 cup coarsely grated ricotta salata (or about 1/2 cup fresh ricotta and 1/2 cup cubed fresh mozzarella)
  • ¼ cup toasted bread crumbs, preferably homemade
  1. Tomato sauce: Put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in garlic and red pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and let sauce simmer gently for 20 minutes, until slightly thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Turn heat to low and cover pot until it’s time to cook the pasta.  (Here’s where I screwed up and had to send my husband out for the pasta. I had only orzo and a good man!)
  4. Put a wide cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil to coat surface of pan. When oil is wavy, test by adding a cube of eggplant. It should begin to sizzle and brown immediately. Fill the pan with a single layer of eggplant cubes. Turn eggplant with a spatula or tongs and brown nicely on all sides. Lower heat as necessary to maintain an even temperature; if the pan is too hot, the eggplant will burn. Remove cooked eggplant to a paper towel or brown bag to absorb excess oil  and continue to fry remaining eggplant in batches, adding more oil as necessary. Season finished eggplant with salt and pepper. (Alternatively, roast the eggplant on a baking sheet at 400 degrees, lightly drizzled with oil, until cooked and nicely browned, about 20 minutes.)
  5. To assemble and serve, boil pasta until al dente, leaving it a little firmer than normal. Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer. Here’s where I went a little cheese wild.  I added about 1/2 cup fresh ricotta, which turned the sauce a pretty pink.  I also added about 1/2 cup cubed fresh mozzarella along with the eggplant. Gently stir to combine. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water, then drain pasta and add to sauce. Using 2 wooden spoons or tongs, toss pasta and sauce, and let cook 1 minute more. Thin sauce if necessary with a little pasta cooking water.
  6. Transfer to a pasta bowl. Sprinkle with grated ricotta salata  (or not) and bread crumbs. Garnish with torn or whole basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.
  7. Serve w/a salad of mixed greens and a glass of bright rose, because it’s summer and because it’s delicious!

 

 

Happy Reading! Happy Eating! Happy Summer!

Dinner & A Story

 

 

 

STORY/NOVEL:

 

Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward

Because I am a multitasker (yes I realize this is a flaw not a virtue) I am an avid audio book consumer. I listen to novels and stories, memoirs and nonfiction while I cook, garden, and take long walks. I begin my day with a glance at the hour-by-hour weather. There’s nearly always a respite from the rain, even here in Portland where we’ve had 147 (*@#*) days of rain since October. This winter my rain gear has seen a lot of miles. Walking in weather was absolutely appropriate as I listened to Jesmyn Ward’s gorgeous novel, Salvage the Bones. Ward writes voluptuous, corporeal prose, never letting us look away from muscle and bone, from the fecund landscape of Mississippi, from heat and wind and water. Set in Beau Sauvage, a fiercely loyal family of four children and a widowed, emotionally absent father, barely prepare for an incoming hurricane. What will become Katrina whorls in the periphery as Randall obsesses about basketball—his way out, Skeetah worries about his prize pit bull and her whelps who, one by one, are dying, and Esch, the only woman in the household, has her own secret. Fifteen, motherless, she is newly pregnant.

…the sickness and the vomiting make me think I should get a test, that and me being two months irregular and the way I wake up every morning with my abdomen feeling full, fleshy and achy and wet, like the blood’s going to come running down any minute—only it doesn’t.

Esch’s secret, the dying puppies, Randall’s slim chances for a different life, and the growing storm, all create profluence, that desire in the reader to turn the pages, or in my case, to walk a little farther.

A steady force in the novel, Esch’s dead mother makes appearances through flashback. As Esch and her brother’s begin to comprehend the hurricane’s threat, worried about stockpiling enough food, they scavenge for eggs in the trees around their home.

The chickens have made their own plans for the storm; they have packed their eggs away, hidden them well. As Randall and Junior and I spread out underneath the oaks and pines, hunting, Randall crouches down next to Junior, and he tells him how Mama taught us to find eggs. Look but don’t look, she said. They’ll find you. You gotta wander and they’ll come. She’d leaned over like Randall, her strong hand soft on the back of my neck, steadying me like a dog. They’re usually brown and have some feathers stuck to them, she’d say, pointing. The eggs look that way because of the mama. Whatever color the mama is, that’s what color the egg is. Her lips were pink, and when she leaned over like that I could smell baby powder drifting from the front of her dress, see the mole marked skin of her chest, the soft fall of her breasts down into her bra. Like me and you, she said. Like me and you. See? She smiled at me, and her eyelashes met her eyelashes like a Venus flytrap. Her thick arm would rub against mine, and I would follow her pointing, and there would be a whole treasure of eggs, nestled one against the other: cream and white and brown and dark brown and speckled so that they almost looked black. The hens would lurk, murmuring. The cock, he always running off being a bully, she said. But the mama, the mama always her. See?

This passage is so filled with love and yearning. It stopped me on my walk, to rewind and listen again. I even visited Powell’s on my way home to buy the book (you can buy it too, use the link above), so I could read what she’d written. So much is going on, the impending violence of the storm, the need for food, the lurking mothers, what we pass on to our children, the comfort and threat of our bodies…baby powder and Venus flytraps.  I cannot recommend this novel enough.

 

 

DINNER:

 

 

 

 

Sometimes breakfast for dinner is a delight! When the power is out and all you have is the stovetop, when you want something comforting and simple, when you’re engrossed in an excellent novel and don’t want to stop to make dinner.  My children loved backward days, and what we called Bird Nests. I still do.

 

 

2 hearty slices of whole grain bread
2 lg. eggs
butter for pan

Use a glass to cut a circle from the center of each slice of bread. Melt generous amount of butter in a cast iron frying pan. Crack each egg into its own ramekin and set near the pan. Place bread in pan, let brown on one side. Flip over and gently pour egg into the circle. Repeat with second slice. Cook for 3 minutes, flip bread and cook 2 minutes more for a runny yolk. Salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with maple roasted bacon and you are set!

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Forgetting

Last week marked the four-year anniversary of my diagnosis of breast cancer. It also marked the first time I forgot about the anniversary. What a treat to forget!

 

The diagnosis shattered me, fear swarmed like locusts, I became unsteady, I hardly spent a moment not thinking about illness and the betrayal I felt…how could my body have let this terrible thing happen when I am so vigilant? I had been my own private neighborhood watch committee, lording over my diet, my exercise, my life. And yet, it happened.

 

 

 

Four years out, I don’t want to think or write about fear, betrayal, or breast cancer anymore. I want to write about healing. Because that’s what happened. I healed. Last July, we went on a five day rafting trip down the Snake River in Idaho and one afternoon as the sun angled low and the light on the tawny cliffs began to shift toward orange and then fade, I turned to my husband. “I feel like myself.”

 

And I did. That is not to say and hadn’t felt well, happy and engaged in life, but on that day I noticed that I’d returned to dwell in my body the way I had before breast cancer. I now feel less wary. I feel comfortable. I feel healthy. I’ve heard your body regenerates every 7 years or so, well I feel regenerated after 4. I don’t know if it’s possible and I’m not going to ruin the feeling by asking Siri.

 

Breast cancer used to drive my car, and then it was in the back seat, then in the trunk with duct tape over its mouth. Now, I’ve left it on the side of the road. One thing I that helped me make the shift was writing. At first, my fears took over, the diagnosis took over, and I had no capacity for introspection, for examination of what was happening to me. By writing through my experience, I went from a loss of self to a changed, stronger self. And, I can almost say I’m grateful.

 

In any case, here I am and though I didn’t mark the anniversary with the my usual Facebook post, I’ll post it here: Four years ago I was having a mammogram that led to an ultrasound, that led to the biopsy that led to the diagnosis, surgery, chemo, that led to right now, heading out my door for a walk in the park. So grateful to be healthy and energized. I won’t lie, part of me is still stunned, frightened…but that edge is ebbing away. Women reading this, if you’ve been putting it off, get a 3-D mammogram, and if you have any family history, ask for an ultrasound. Men reading this, encourage your partners, sisters, mothers, and daughters to get screened. #lovethisday

 

 

 

 

 

Northwest Narrative Medicine Conference

I’m so happy to be a part of this conference coming up in a couple of weeks at OHSU. For those of you new to the concept of Narrative Medicine (and believe me, that was me until recently) it is growing movement that recognizes the value of people’s personal stories in health, healing and disease. It aims to treat patients and families as humans with individual stories, rather than simply symptoms displayed on a medical chart. In doing this, narrative medicine aims not only to validate the experience of the patient, but also to encourage humanism and self-reflection in health care providers and caregivers. Lucky me, I get to tell my story at the conference.  Meanwhile, you can get some ideas about the wonderful people involved in the conference by heading over to the Northwest Narrative Medicine website. There you’ll find all sorts of details and some great blog posts. Including one from me.

Talking and writing about our experiences with illness and health, about our bodies and our minds, reinforces the truth that none of us are our disease,

 

 

 

 

 

The Decisive Moment

The New York Times obituary for the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson crossed my desktop last week, at just the right moment. I’ve been struggling—with a story, with my novel, with an essay—and I’ve also been reading James Salter’s beautiful novel, Light Years. I recognized right away a kinship between Salter’s writing and Cartier-Bresson’s ideas and images.

When Cartier-Bresson first picked up a tiny Leica 35mm film camera in 1931, he began a visual journey that would revolutionize 20th-century photography.

His camera could be wielded so discreetly that it enabled him to photograph while being virtually unseen by others — a near invisibility that turned photojournalism into a primary source of information and photography into a recognized art form.

Cartier-Bresson’s concept of the “decisive moment” — a split second that reveals the larger truth of a situation — shaped modern street photography and set the stage for hundreds of photojournalists to bring the world into living rooms through magazines such as Life and Look.

His signature shooting technique was to find a visually arresting setting for a photograph and then patiently wait for that decisive moment to unfurl.

 

I love this gift of “the decisive moment.” Sometimes Cartier-Bresson took only 3 or 4 images in an hour. His patience and vision were not in the service of an epiphany. His decisive moments were not bell clangs of sudden understanding, but instead moments of absolute clarity, distillations of time and place and people so true the image speaks of life beyond its frame. A notion similar to what the wonderful writer, Alison Lurie, has to say about fiction writing:

The only reason for writing fiction at all is to combine a number of different observations at the point where they overlap.  If you already have one perfect example…you might as well write nonfiction.  Indeed, you should…

But ordinarily you don’t have a single perfect example. Instead, over the years you’ve noticed, say, something about the way children behave at their own birthday parties, but none of your examples is complete in itself.  So you invent a children’s party which never took place, but is ‘realer’ in the Platonic sense than any you ever attended.  Fiction is condensed reality; and that’s why its flavor is more intense, like bouillon or frozen orange juice.

My story, about a woman in the pangs of middle age, a time when one begins to see the end in the distance, when family stretches away (sometimes with violence and sometimes with grace), when bodies start to fail, and marriages realign, was not hitting that Cartier-Bresson decisive moment. Sure, it’s full of scenes, the hospital, the dinner table, a long drive, but I haven’t yet found the moment. Consider this from Salter’s, Light Years.

 

Pure, empty days. The sea is sliver, rough as bark. Hadji has dug a hollow in which he lies, eyes narrowed, bits of sand stuck to his mouth. He always faces the sea. Franca has a black tank suit. Her limbs are shining and strong. She is afraid of the waves. Danny is more courageous. She goes out in the surf with her father; they scream and ride on their bellies. Franca joins them. The dog is barking on the shore.

                  That whistle of the sea in the long afternoon, the great beds of brown foam, of kelp brought up by the storms, the mussels, the whitened boards. To the west it is steaming, a long, brilliant stretch as if in rain. In the dunes Franca has found the dry husk of a beetle. She brings it, quivering in her hand, to Viri. It has a kind of single horn.

                  “Look, Papa.”

                  “It’s a rhinoceros beetle,” he tells her.

                  “Mama!” she cries. “Look! A rhinoceros beetle!”

                  She is nine. Danny is seven. These years are endless, but they cannot be remembered.

 

The scene makes my eyes sting. It’s so beautiful and vivid. Look at the precision of the sensory details, the sea is “rough as bark,” the dog has sand “stuck to his mouth,” they ride the waves “on their bellies.” And then there is the long vision of the distant storm that takes us away from the family out into the world only to return to the “husk of the beetle,” and the children, uniting the family wth their cries, “Mama!” “Look, Papa.” I feel so lucky to read these pages. I feel so lucky (and daunted) that I get to try to make the family in my story as true. As real.

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Workshops

Dear Ones,

I’m recently back from teaching in beautiful and warm Squaw Valley. I was lucky to be invited to participate in the Community of Writers where I led workshops, listened to terrific and insightful panels and talks, learned and laughed with a lot of talented smarties. My students put up manuscripts with stakes, heart, humor and pain. Yup. Pain at the center. Pain, the common denominator. Pain, the unifier. They read each other’s pages with generosity and careful intensity. There’s a beautiful alchemy that occurs when twelve people sit around a table, talking about writing, sharing their inner lives. Everyone has the right to be a little nervous. Everyone has the right to wonder. Everyone has the right to be heard. Everyone has the right to use their voice, their humor, details from their world that crack open the doors to all our resilient hearts.

 

A value add from being with so many writers? A new to be read list:

 

 

Some quotes from the week:

“Laughter is a carbonated form of holiness.” –Anne Lamott

“Make them laugh and break their fucking hearts.” –Matt Sumell

“Reading is experiential. The writing shouldn’t have to write toward a point.” –Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

“Where is the juice? How much pressure did you put on the character to illicit vitality and emotion?” –Elizabeth Tallent

“Perfection sucks.” –Elizabeth Tallent

“Weather is not a decoration. Your story must earn the weather.” –Ron Carlson

“Write towards the moment you can no longer touch bottom.” –Ron Carlson

 

I’m grateful to have participated and happy that it’s nearly autumn and I’ll be sitting around more tables with more writers.

happy writing, happy reading!

Big Love,

xN

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner & A Story

STORY:

 

One Saturday Morning, by Tessa Hadley.

What I love most about this story is the tender and tentative nature of the main character, Carrie, home alone on a Saturday morning, practicing the piano, when an old family friend knocks on the door, bringing his particular tragedy into the family’s day. Being an American weaned on the violence and conquest of American movies and novels and life, I worried for Carrie’s safety, alone in the house with this man, Dom, while her parents are grocery shopping. Carrie feels awkward and out of place so she flees upstairs to spy on the visitor from afar. In fact, Carrie does a lot of viewing from afar and thus her understanding of adult situations is often skewed. Upon her parents return she is excited and happy to be presenting the visitor to them.

…her mother turned on the coffee percolator and unpacked the perishables into the fridge. The grownups sat down around the kitchen table to drink their coffee, and Carrie pulled up a stool to sit beside her mother, delighted with Dom’s presence now, as if it were her own achievement.

Hadley completely immerses us in a particular time and place. Immediately, with the first paragraph and the descriptions of the family home, I’m engaged. The writer Eudora Welty, in her essay “Place in Fiction,” says, “The moment the place in which the story or novel happens is accepted as true, through it will begin to glow, in a kind of recognizable glory, the feeling and thought that inhabited the novel in the author’s head and animated the whole of his work.”

The setting is so vivid, the home so comfortable and sloppy, I believe everything else that is to come. Consider this description from the opening:

Carrie shuddered; it was still cool indoors and she wished she had her cardigan on. This room at the front of the house was always dark, because of the horse-chestnut trees outside the window. They called it the dining room, though they used it for dining only on special occasions, or when her mother had a dinner party; mostly, they watched television in here. A dinner party was planned, in fact, for that night, and the room seemed braced in anticipation: the notes Carrie played fell into an alert silence.

The house, it seems, is an extension of Carrie herself, who spends much of the story in alert, anticipatory silence. Dom brings his particular sorrow and tragedy into the home and Carrie watches her parents adapt, absorb and offer whatever consolation and comfort they can.

 

 

DINNER:

 

Herb Crusted Salmon:
Serves 2

¾ lb salmon fillet/skin on
5-6 Tbs herb rub – my favorite:
2 Tbs smoky paprika
2 Tbs dried thyme
2 tsp pepper flakes
Maldon salt flakes to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425.

Slice salmon fillet into individual servings. Apply liberal amount of herbs to flesh side of fish. Over medium high flame, heat a generous pour of oil (enough to coat the surface) in cast iron pan until shimmering. Place fish, flesh side down in pan and do not move for several minutes. You want the herbs to form a nice crust on the flesh. When you see the flesh turning from bright pink to a more opaque shade, up the side of each fillet, maybe ½ an inch or so (roughly 3 minutes), swiftly slide a spatula beneath the fillet and flip.

 

Place pan in hot oven and continue cooking for 4-6 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet and your desired doneness. When cooking is complete, remove pan, slide spatula between the skin and the flesh of each fillet. The skin should adhere to the pan, leaving a nice clean piece of fish to plate.

A squeeze of lemon and a parsley garnish are all you need.

To accompany our meal I served quinoa tabbouleh and broccolini I tossed with olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes, then roasted on a cookie sheet beside the fish. Not a complicated meal, but certainly a delicious one. Happy Summer!!

 

 

 

 

 

Late Night Conversation

Friends!

I’m so happy to tell you about a podcast conversation I had with my good friend, the fine writer, Justin Hocking.  You all know Justin (or else you’re in for a big treat as you get to know Justin and his work!) from his amazing book, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld, NPR said of Justin’s book: “Funny and heartbreaking. . . Hocking’s memoir is a masterful work of confusion and clarity, of obsession and letting go.”  He won the Oregon Book Award for Creative Non-fiction and was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

 

IMG_7079For Late Night Conversation, one of the podcasts from Late Night Library, Justin and I sat across from one another in the Rye Room. We had an intimate conversation about my memoir, Community Chest, about writing, friendship, vulnerability, cancer, how to write cool when the emotion is intense, and, of course, humor.

IMG_0081

A few quotes from our conversation:

About being bald and afraid: “I felt this strange amount of shame…how could I have dropped the ball and gotten cancer?….I just wanted to pass. I had a quarter inch of hair at that point.”

 

About being real on the page: “When you expose your vulnerability you connect with people. Everybody has a soft underbelly.”

Please, head on over to Late Night Library and give a listen.

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner & A Story

IMG_7098

 

STORY:

 

Oh, how I love the clear, straight ahead sentences in Nell Freudenberger’s terrific short story, Hover, collected in the 2014 Best American Short Stories. Hover is the story of a newly divorced woman, mother of 4-year-old Jack D., who is barely hanging on. She follows the “rules” of the newly separated, trying to make the transition as seamless and painless as possible for her boy. The parents and boy have dinner together each time he transitions from one home to the other. They explain everything and plan on giving him calendars so he can visualize his schedule. When Jack  becomes obsessed with death, she tells him he won’t die for at least 100 years (an answer she’s practiced) and, she lets him choose his own comfort toy from the grocery store, in his case, a bag of King Arthur flour, which he sleeps with and carries everywhere, including to school. The flour appearing at school just about sends Jack’s dad, Drew, over the edge:

       “Jesus,” he said, and used my name, which he never does. “Why the fuck do you let him do that?” 
       “Because he wants to. And I didn’t want him to feel embarrassed about it.”
       “You’re supposed to feel embarrassed about things that are embarrassing! How else do you learn?”
       “Learn what?”
       “What’s embarrassing!” Drew sighed, as if someone had just sent him a big assignment that hadn’t previously been part of his workload. 

This mother/ex-wife/writer struggles in her rut of uncertainty and malaise and sorrow. You can feel it in her overindulgent actions toward her boy, and in her observations. Near the start of the story she stares out her window down upon a flat roof, “where the wind rolls a basketball, bleached white, back and forth across a damp depression in the tar paper.”  You can also see her wavering existence manifest in her sudden ability to hover, just a little bit, inches above the ground, and only when she’s “doing mom stuff,” cooking, tying a shoe, sitting in a parent/teacher meeting. This narrator has a very tenuous hold on her life.

As with any great story, the problem in Hover also becomes part of the resolution. Barely hanging on turns out to be just the solution she and her boy need. Near the end, in a beautiful moment on the playground, time slows, we see “brilliant needles of light,” we smell the cedar play structure, we hear the characters breathing, and just for a moment, barely hanging on becomes a gift.

Find an excerpt from the story here.

 

 

DINNER:

 

FullSizeRender

 

Sometimes we’re all just barely hanging on, and for those nights, I give you pie for dinner. You’re welcome!!

Shelby’s Mom’s Pumpkin Pie (modified)

15 oz pumpkin
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 T molasses
1/4 t ground cloves
1-1/2 t cinnamon
1-1/2 t ground ginger
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup 1/2 & 1/2
unbaked 9″ pie shell

Mix ingredients in the order given. Pour into unbaked 9″ pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 45 minutes longer, or until set.

Treat yourself, go find Freudenberger’s story, make a pie, pour a glass of wine, steal some time to sit and read.